Coral reefs are having a hard time. Reefs in the Coral Triangle, roughly spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, stand out for their species richness. However, they are in close proximity to areas with high human population densities, often depending on the reefs for sustenance. Ongoing anthropogenic environmental changes in the sea, on land and in the atmosphere have severely degraded many important coral reef environments. Will these reefs stand a chance in the future with ongoing climate change and pollution?
Turbid habitats might have a role in preserving future coral reefs
Fossil data show that reefs living in so-called turbid habitats, characterized by the influence of terrestrial run-off, played an important role in the origins of coral reefs in the Coral Triangle. Usually these reefs are considered as occurring in marginal conditions, but we think that they might have a role in preserving future coral reefs. High coral cover and recruitment on present-day reefs suggest that, despite the presence of large human populations, turbid reefs have the capacity to withstand environmental pressures. In combination with future projections of environmental conditions, information of past and present states of reef ecosystems can be used to forecast future trajectories of turbid reef habitats, biota, and ecosystem function.