Like many coral specialists fifteen years ago, J. E. N. Veron thought Australia's Great Barrier Reef was impervious to climate change. "Owned by a prosperous country and accorded the protection it deserves, it would surely not go the way of the Amazon rain forest or the parklands of Africa, but would endure forever. That is what I thought once, but I think it no longer." This book is Veron's "Silent Spring" for the world's coral reefs.
Veron presents the geological history of the reef, the biology of coral reef ecosystems, and a primer on what we know about climate change. He concludes that the Great Barrier Reef and, indeed, most coral reefs will be dead from mass bleaching and irreversible acidification within the coming century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed. If we don't have the political will to confront the plight of the world's reefs, he argues, current processes already in motion will become unstoppable, bringing on a mass extinction the world has not seen for 65 million years.
Our species has cracked its own genetic code and sent representatives of its kind to the moon--we can certainly save the world's reefs if we want to. But to achieve this goal, we must devote scientific expertise and political muscle to the development of green technologies that will dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions and reverse acidification of the oceans.
Veron once thought Australia's Great Barrier Reef would endure forever, but after witnessing the devastation inflicted on corals by elevated sea temperatures, he now knows this is false. In his impassioned book, the former chief scientist with the Australian Institute of Marine Science highlights reefs as indicators of climate change's effects on marine and other ecosystems...Coral health affects all marine life. According to Veron's detailed analysis, corals will be incapable of relying on genetic adaptation to recover because the time frame for such evolutionary changes is too short. Complex scientific material serves Veron's straightforward message: climate change will soon reach the point of no return--possibly within a decade--and cause disaster for not only corals but many, if not all, marine food webs. Publishers Weekly 20071105 Decades of study of coral reefs inform J. E. N. Veron's big-picture account of the reef's past and future. It is an urgent, rigorous yet accessible tour de force of the geology, evolution, biology and chemistry of the reef presented through the prism of climate change...By looking at past "extinction events," like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, Veron offers an alarming glimpse into a similar future. -- Fiona Capp The Age 20080216 A historical, geological and biological study of the largest coral reef. The chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science uses the Great Barrier Reef as an alarming case study on the future of coral reefs. Although it is a hypothetical tale, it is a worrying look at how the Earth is in danger of suffering the worst case of mass extinction seen for 65 million years. Times Higher Education Supplement 20080228 Not a chronicle of the life of coral reefs, but an anticipation of their death. It is a work grounded in science, but which departed from the careful jargon of probability and possibility to become an impassioned, anguished eulogy delivered by a dear friend of the imminently deceased...[Veron's] book travels back through the fossil record to the remote past, reflecting on the five great extinction events that wiped out much of life on earth and finding a thread of commonality. -- Jo Chandler The Age 20080607 This is not a book for the fainthearted...Indeed, Veron believes we are on the brink of the sixth mass extinction of the planet. He makes his case in this book and paints a vivid picture of what we will be losing if we do not stop spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere...The book is easy to read with well-placed illustrations to explain complex concepts. It presents its argument in a logical and increasingly disturbing sequence that reaches a bleak end. It is a plea for urgent action written by a man who is passionate about the Great Barrier Reef. It should be read widely by anyone who cares about our planet. -- Louise Goggin Australian Marine Science Association Bulletin 20080401 Time is running out for the Great Barrier Reef, and no one knows it better than J. E. N. Veron...A Reef in Time is fascinating in that it puts climate change in context of the history of the earth, by concentrating on one element of it. It's bleak--but not as bleak as the outlook for the reef--and is backed up by extensive data and scientific research and analysis. It is the whole, and last, word on the Great Barrier Reef and climate change. -- Jodie Davis and Margaret Ambrose Habitat Australia 20080401 This impressive volume covers a large topic and does so very well. Though it is ostensibly centered on the Great Barrier Reef, the book treats the general nature of and environmental controls on coral reefs, and their history over geologic time since the Silurian Period...The book is highly readable and well produced. -- N. Caine Choice 20080801 [A Reef in Time] provides a compelling and highly readable account of the formation of the reef, as well as a description of its role as a functioning part of the ocean's ecosystem. Despite its grandeur and the appearance of permanence, the Great Barrier Reef has not always existed, nor is its future secure...Veron's account of the threats that face the Great Barrier Reef make bleak reading...Just as the Great Barrier Reef was built through countless millions of small actions by the organisms within it, so it is being threatened by the accumulation of small activities in each of our lives, events that are individually trivial but, added together, impose a huge burden on ecological communities. Veron asks why we should care. His book makes it impossible not to, and reinforces the growing call for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The bigger question--one that is left hanging--is how to bring this about. -- Anne Magurran Times Literary Supplement 20090306