Over the coming decades, a number of consequences of climate change are going to be seen on reefs around the world. Exactly what is going to happen, we don't know for sure. However, change is inevitable as the consequences of elevated carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, including higher sea surface temperature and ocean acidification, become more apparent.

For more information on this subject
AIMS Marine Blueprint, "Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef"

On this page, you can see some possible outcomes for parts of the Great Barrier Reef of different climate change scenarios resulting from an increase in sea surface temperature, taking into account the possible adaptability of coral.

It seems likely that the reefs will go on in some form, but it is possible that they may host a different composition of species, depending on a range of factors.

According to analysis by AIMS researcher Scott Wooldridge and co-authors (see publication link, below), lasting transition to seaweed-dominated or otherwise impoverished seascapes will be avoided only if there are slow rates of warming and a significant rate of adaptation in corals.

Population levels of herbivorous creatures that live on the reef and keep it clear of algae and seaweed will also play a part in how the reef might change.

Try selecting variables such as low or high warming, low or high rates of adaptation, the location of the reefs and size of the herbivorous population to see what might happen.

Try the ReefState tool

Please note: Keep in mind when using this tool that it is indicative only, based upon current knowledge and trends. These may change in the future as scientists gain a better understanding of the potential (if any) for corals to adapt to warmer ocean temperatures. The tool is also specific to particular parts of the Great Barrier Reef and should not be taken as indicative of possible trends for the whole GBR. It only deals with the threat posed by predicted increases in the intensity of summer heat wave conditions and does not take account of other ocean changes due to a changing climate, including increasing acidification and changes in cyclone activity.

For those users who are interested in learning more about how the model was developed and the assumptions upon which its predictions are based, please refer to the paper by Scott Woodridge et al:
Precursors for resilience in coral communities in a warming climate:

a belief network approach
(674kb PDF)
and appendix (72kb PDF)

See also how the Wooldridge et al paper has been cited by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change