People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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International ocean scientists have issued a blunt warning to world leaders ahead of the November 2015 climate change negotiations in Paris (COP21).

In a paper published in the journal Science, the experts argue that any new global climate agreement must begin to minimise the mounting toll on the world’s oceans to prevent irreversible damage.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Deputy Director and Director of the UQ Global Change Institute Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said the 2009 negotiations in Copenhagen had underestimated the likely impact of climate change on oceans, and a new more intense focus on oceans was urgently needed.

“There’s compelling evidence that increases in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases  are already resulting in fundamental changes to the physical, chemical, and biological properties of our planet,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“This is posing growing risks to human well-being as well as threatening key industries.

“However, solutions are still possible if we act decisively in Paris,” he said.

French National Center for Scientific Research senior scientist Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso also voiced his great concern.

“The oceans have been minimally considered at previous climate negotiations. Our study provides compelling arguments for a radical change at COP21,” Dr Gattuso said.

The paper draws on an extensive scientific assessment of the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans completed last year for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg was co-ordinating lead author for the Oceans section of that United Nations study.

He said the chemical and physical conditions of the ocean were changing at rates which were, in some cases, faster than any seen over the past 65 million years.

“There is also high confidence that many marine organisms and their communities and ecosystems are undergoing fundamental change as the world‘s oceans warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” he said.

“While deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are a must, we must also agree to rapidly rebuild the resilience of ecosystems and people against the rising tide of change.

“We must work on the urgent issues of adapting to rapid sea level rise, transforming fisheries and the impacts of increasingly strong storms – all of which will help to reduce non-climate stresses on ecosystems and build resilience to climate change-related impacts.”

The Science paper warns that policy options for addressing ocean impacts (mitigate, protect, repair, adapt) are narrowing as the ocean warms and acidifies.

The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) will herald a week of climate negotiations in Paris on 30 November.

For editors:

The Oceans 2015 Initiative was launched to provide COP21 negotiators with key information on what future ocean will look like. The initiative is led by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Sorbonne University (Paris) and the French Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), and is supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the BNP Paribas Foundation and the Monégasque Association for Ocean Acidification.


Australia – Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, (+61 7) 3443 3112, oveh@uq.edu.au, Skype ‘Hoegh-Guldberg’, GCI Communications 0438 285 283; France – Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso, (+33 4) 93 76 38 59, gattuso@obs-vlfr.fr.

High-resolution photos, an animated movie, audio and video are available 

Link to paper



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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au