Research Topic

Gulf of Mexico Reefs: Past, Present and Future

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About this Research Topic

Reefs have a long and turbulent evolutionary history with boom and bust cycles throughout the geological record. Today, coral reefs are undergoing rapid and significant changes driven by human activities, including climate change, overfishing, and nutrient pollution. To develop best practices for the ...

Reefs have a long and turbulent evolutionary history with boom and bust cycles throughout the geological record. Today, coral reefs are undergoing rapid and significant changes driven by human activities, including climate change, overfishing, and nutrient pollution. To develop best practices for the management of reefs, creative and collaborative work must be done by biologists, ecologists, paleontologists, oceanographers, managers and conservation practitioners. The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) coral reef system can benefit from integration of research efforts across space and time (ancient to modern) because this region encompasses a variety of understudied reefs, which range from minimally to highly disturbed, and some stressors challenging modern GOM reefs (e.g., poor water quality following extreme storm events) may also have impacted ancient reefs in the region.

This Research Topic aims to summarize the state-of-the-field for the GOM reef system from an interdisciplinary perspective, including information on reef environments and communities from the geological past, current case studies, as well as future projections and management goals. We are encouraging submissions from scientists working across the Gulf representing diverse perspectives, as well as early career researchers (e.g., postdoctoral fellows and students). This Research Topic is linked to the Gulf of Mexico Reefs: Past, Present and Future Symposium, held in October 2018 at Rice University in Houston, TX (USA).

Potential Topics and Subtopics:
1. General Overview: Distribution of reefs in the GOM and characteristics of these reefs.
Oceanography, bathymetry, occurrences, climate etc.
Biogeography, biodiversity, and assessment of diverse biotic communities (not limited to stony corals)
Description of artificial reefs

2. Geological Past: Geological History of reef growth in the GOM
Climate History (Holocene/Pleistocene) of the GOM
Distribution of ancient GOM reefs

3. Present GOM Reefs and Environments: Strategies to improve our understanding of connectivity
Particle dispersal models
Connectivity of GOM reefs to other coastal ecosystems
Other related ecosystems
GOM reef microbial communities
Threats (e.g. land-based pollution (nutrients), hypoxic events, hurricanes, overfishing, disease, climate change, bleaching
Oil Platforms and their effects on ecology
Oil spills
Are artificial structures supporting invasive species in the GOM?
Species composition of artificial reef structures. Are they primarily competitors of natural reef communities?
Invasive species
Socioeconomics and management of the GOM Reefs
Overview of management infrastructure
Ecosystem services of mesophotic reefs
Science communication and outreach in the GOM (ongoing efforts, best practices, target audiences, etc.)

4. Future of Reefs in the GOM: Conservation of GOM reefs: Past, Present and Future
Future socioeconomics of GOM Reefs
Predictions for GOM reefs in a changing climate (e.g. Physical oceanography, climate predictions, future population connectivity, coastal ecology)
Ocean Optimism for the GOM
New technologies and their application to the study of GOM reefs and fisheries.


Keywords: Connectivity, Conservation, Ecology, Geology, Socioeconomics


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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