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The Life and Death of Coral Reefs

High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere produces a lethal combination of warmer and more acid seawater, and widespread overfishing, pollution, and coastal development further undermines the heath of reefs. This has the potential to destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Reefs are the centres of some of the most concentrated biodiversity on Earth, and have been throughout their 3.5 billion year old history.

Yet reef ecosystems have undergone many phases of diversification and contraction throughout this time, constantly re-inventing new ways to construct reefs in response to changing climate, seawater chemistry, and the rise of new groups of competitors and predators. The dynamics of past reef evolution and their response to catastrophic events such as mass extinctions provides scientists with case histories which help predict how reefs may respond to current threats and, more importantly, how best to avert their consequences.


Rachel Wood (University of Edinburgh)


Rachel Wood has been a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh since 2006. She has a long interest in the history of reefs and their evolution, which has involved extensive fieldwork in Asia, Australia and North America. She is the author of Reef Evolution, published by OUP, and holds a B.Sc. from Bristol University and a Ph.D from the Open University. She held a series of postdoctoral fellowships at Cambridge University, and from 2001-2006, Rachel worked as a Principal Research Scientist at Schlumberger Cambridge Research.