Are we sacrificing the future of coral reefs on the altar of the "climate change" narrative?

Avigdor Abelson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Following a series of mass-bleaching events that have seriously degraded coral reefs, notably the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, a common narrative is now dominating the discourse, according to which "the only sure way to save the world's coral reefs is climate change mitigation". However, climate change is not a sole stressor. Most coral reefs around the world are threatened by a myriad of local stressors, including overfishing, destructive fishing, untreated sewage, agriculture effluents (nutrients and pesticides), and siltation due to deforestation. Reefs will not survive the severe effects of this plethora of stressors while waiting until we mitigate climate change. In order to safeguard reefs, we need to adopt a new narrative - "there are diverse ways in which we can improve the chances of saving coral reefs" - by acting now to: (i) improve their local protection and marine protected area networks, (ii) alleviate their critical local stressors, (iii) restore degraded and damaged reefs, and (iv) promote reef resilience and adaptation (e.g. adaptation networks, assisted evolution) to the changing conditions, notably climate change effects. It is time for us to move on from the impractical goals of the climate change narrative ("interventions beyond our field of expertise") to building up resilience and adaptation of social-ecological systems of coral reefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-45
Number of pages6
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • conservation
  • marine ecosystems
  • marine protected areas
  • mitigation
  • resilience
  • stressor


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