Fossil evidence shows that corals have dominated many reefs for over 10 000 years. However, the balance between the ecological forces of predation, competition, disturbance, and recruitment that allowed thousands of years of uninterrupted reef growth have now been grossly altered by human activities. Consequently, healthy and dynamic reefs have declined dramatically in the last two decades as a result of overfishing, climate change, pollution, and other anthropogenic insults. Although the ecological future of reefs seems bleak, we hope that creative management of these ecosystems has the potential to protect them for future generations.

See also: Antipredation Behavior; Mutualism; Predation.

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