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Coral reef ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to global climate change, owing to extreme environmental sensitivities and consequent bleaching of reef-building scleractinian corals. Severe coral bleaching often kills scleractinian coral, leading to longer-term declines in habitat and topographic complexity. The loss of corals, and corresponding changes in habitat quality, also has a significant effect on coral reef fishes. Coral loss has the greatest and most immediate effect on fishes that depend on live corals for food or shelter. Many coral-reef fishes that do not depend directly on live coral are nonetheless dependent on the topographic complexity provided by healthy coral growth. Sustained and ongoing climate change thus poses a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems and urgent action is required to minimize future effects of climate change and maximize resilience of coral reef ecosystems.

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