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Catastrophes, phase shifts, and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef

Author(s): Hughes TP

Abstract

Many coral reefs have been degraded over the past two to three decades through a combination of human and natural disturbances. In Jamaica, the effects of overfishing, hurricane damage, and disease have combined to destroy most corals, whose abundance has declined from more than 50 percent in the late 1970s to less than 5 percent today. A dramatic phase shift has occurred, producing a system dominated by fleshy macroalgae (more than 90 percent cover). Immediate implementation of management procedures is necessary to avoid further catastrophic damage.

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