Although Pliocene temperature and pCO2 are similar to those predicted in the IPPC RCP4.5 scenario, the distribution of coral reefs in the center of maximum coral diversity, the Coral Triangle, during this period has not been explored. We discovered a significantly lower occurrence of reefs during the Pliocene, which we refer to as the Pliocene Reef Gap, but this decrease was not associated with a drop in coral genus richness. While some of the multiple local causes that drove this decline, such as sea level rise, are analogs to drivers of Anthropocene reef decline, neither warming nor increasing pCO2 are among them.

Coral reefs

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Staff publications

Harrison, G. W., Santodomingo, Nadia, Johnson, Kenneth G., & Renema, W. (2023). Is the Coral Triangle’s future shown in a Pliocene reef gap?. Coral reefs, 42(6), 1219–1225. doi:10.1007/s00338-023-02412-5