Ghost reefs: Nautical charts document large spatial scale of coral reef loss over 240 years

McClenachan, Loren, O'Connor, Grace, Neal, Benjamin P., Pandolfi, John M. and Jackson, Jeremy B. C. (2017) Ghost reefs: Nautical charts document large spatial scale of coral reef loss over 240 years. Science Advances, 3 9: e1603155. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1603155

Author McClenachan, Loren
O'Connor, Grace
Neal, Benjamin P.
Pandolfi, John M.
Jackson, Jeremy B. C.
Title Ghost reefs: Nautical charts document large spatial scale of coral reef loss over 240 years
Journal name Science Advances   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 2375-2548
Publication date 2017-09-06
Year available 2017
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1603155
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 3
Issue 9
Start page e1603155
Total pages 7
Place of publication Washington, United States
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Language eng
Abstract Massive declines in population abundances of marine animals have been documented over century-long time scales. However, analogous loss of spatial extent of habitat-forming organisms is less well known because georeferenced data are rare over long time scales, particularly in subtidal, tropical marine regions. We use high-resolution historical nautical charts to quantify changes to benthic structure over 240 years in the Florida Keys, finding an overall loss of 52% (SE, 6.4%) of the area of the seafloor occupied by corals. We find a strong spatial dimension to this decline; the spatial extent of coral in Florida Bay and nearshore declined by 87.5% (SE, 7.2%) and 68.8% (SE, 7.5%), respectively, whereas that of offshore areas of coral remained largely intact. These estimates add to finer-scale loss in live coral cover exceeding 90% in some locations in recent decades. The near-complete elimination of the spatial coverage of nearshore coral represents an underappreciated spatial component of the shifting baseline syndrome, with important lessons for other species and ecosystems. That is, modern surveys are typically designed to assess change only within the species' known, extant range. For species ranging from corals to sea turtles, this approach may overlook spatial loss over longer time frames, resulting in both overly optimistic views of their current conservation status and underestimates of their restoration potential.
Keyword Long-Term Decline
Florida Bay
Ecosystem Services
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Biological Sciences Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 1 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 1 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Sun, 05 Nov 2017, 09:30:16 EST