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Past, present and future of turbid reefs in the Coral Triangle

Project description

Predicting climate change impact on coral reefs

Coral reefs occupy 0.1 % of the world’s ocean area and support 25 % of all marine species on the planet. Climate change is threatening these natural wonders. The EU-funded 4D_REEF project will investigate areas that can support coral reefs in future climate change scenarios. It will develop analysis and monitoring tools to compare current and past conditions, spanning the Pliocene-Holocene geological epochs. The findings will increase our understanding of biotic response to environmental change and provide essential baselines for predicting the impact of ongoing global environmental change. By bringing together leading groups and experts from various research fields, 4D_REEF will also form a training environment for early-stage researchers.


Coral reefs are the economically most highly valued ecosystems in the world. However, ongoing anthropogenic environmental changes have severely degraded their environments. Analyses of 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 and maintenance of reef ecosystems. Key questions addressed in 4D-REEF are: 1) What did pristine reefs look like?; 2) Can we predict which areas will most likely support coral reefs in future climate change scenarios?; 3) Is it possible to develop monitoring tools that can be used to compare current and past conditions? We will study examples from the Holocene, prior to significant anthropogenic impact, and the Pliocene, a future greenhouse analogue, and compare them with the present-day reef conditions. These new data will provide the essential baselines for predicting the impact of ongoing global environmental change.

4D-REEF will develop new techniques for data collection, analysis, and visualisation that can be applied in future data-intensive projects in the Earth and Life Sciences. The increasingly complex, large size and 3D nature of datasets calls for the application of innovative techniques to be developed and standardised through cross-sectoral collaborations between Earth and Life scientists and visualisation experts.

4D-REEF will bring together leading groups and experts from a range of research environments, including universities, natural history museums, an applied science institute, SME, and NGO. This will generate a training environment in which the ESRs can make informed decisions to pursue high-level careers in or outside academia, and modify their training programme accordingly. Because of our interdisciplinary approach, the current need to understand biotic response to on-going environmental change, we believe that this is an ideal topic for the training of a cohort of Early Stage Researchers.


Net EU contribution
€ 796 859,64
Darwinweg 2
2333 CR Leiden

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West-Nederland Zuid-Holland Agglomeratie Leiden en Bollenstreek
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Participants (9)

Partners (5)