Coral decline began in the mid-1900s

Underwater coral reef view

ASU-Conservation International Assistant Research Professor Katie Cramer recently co-authored a paper in Science Advances titled the “Widespread loss of Caribbean acroporid corals was underway before coral bleaching and disease outbreaks.

The publication presented evidence through fossil data, historical records and underwater data, that throughout the last 125,000 years, the abundance of staghorn and elkhorn corals began declining in the mid-1900s. This reveals new speculation that the corals began to decline from fishing and land-clearing, but warming oceans have impelled this deterioration further.

This sparks urgency to alleviate harmful human impacts on reefs, especially since the coral decline is so rapid.

“In an era where coral reefs are being hit with multiple human stressors at the same time, we need to resolve why and how much coral reefs have changed over human history to inform our responses to the current reef crisis," said Cramer.

If we continue down this road, humans will eradicate coral reef species, leading to trophic cascades that will decline other species populations because of their important role in providing habitats for reef animals. Learn more.