"If this is the case, it has serious implications for the nations of the Coral Triangle, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where tens of millions of people rely upon the oceans for their livelihoods and food.
"The picture that is forming is one of corals moving back and forth, towards the poles during warm periods, and retracting towards the equator in cooler times, in search of the most favourable water conditions.
"It is going to be important to factor this kind of dynamism into how we manage them in the hot times which we now know lie ahead."
Prof. Pandolfi has devoted many years to studying major fossilised coral reef deposits around the world most of which are now on dry land but which grew in the ocean during warmer periods when sea levels were much higher than today.
"Many of these reefs lie 4-6 metres above today's high tide mark, and are a clear indicator of how much the oceans rose during the last interglacial.
"The thought that just 0.7 of a degree of sea surface warming back then caused a 4-6 metre ocean rise is distinctly disturbing because that is how much the Earth has already heated in the current warming episode, and the predictions are for a further one degree or more by 2050.
"Corals, we know, have responded quite readily to rising sea levels in the absence of human stressors. The question will be: can humans respond equally well?"
|Contact: John Pandolfi|
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies