Skip to main content


Coral reef ecosystems and human health

Research Achievements

Coral reef ecosystems and human health

A team of IGERT Fellows (Schultz, Kittinger, Prescott and Fa'anunu) and faculty (Wilcox, Kapan, Toonen) completed the first phase of a uniquely integrative team research project on the relationship between the coral reef ecosystems health and human health across the Pacific Islands. A key finding is that the index of coral reef ecosystem condition declines with the Human Development Index, exhibiting a threshold beyond which coral reefs rapidly decline. Following this island societies tends to respond with conservation measures to reverse the ecological decline. However, complete recovery does not occur. The observed pattern is commonly seen in coral reef aquarium microcosms and may represent a universal response to stress of these sensitive and complex ecosystems. The findings have wide policy and practical implications to human development and coral reef ecosystem management in the Pacific Islands.