Growth and Decay of Coral Reefs: Fifty Years of Learning

Growth and Decay of Coral Reefs: Fifty Years of Learning describes how coral reefs have alternately flourished and declined over the last 50 years and the dynamics of these changes. The study is based on recordings at 30 different locations along the Sudanese coast, visited by the author between 1971 and 1973.

Beyond the Red Sea's desert shores lie some of the richest and most diverse coral reefs on our planet. Over a thousand species of reef fishes, matched by a similar abundance of living corals, creating habitats scientists were only just beginning to understand. The complexity of the inter-relations was truly mesmerizing. A single intervention, such as removal of a key species, could cause the whole community to collapse. Healthy corals were transformed into green weed-smothered reefs, accompanied by the loss of both corals and fish.

Based on the author’s observations of how knowledge and perspectives have changed over the last 50 years, this book highlights lessons learned from historical records that may help maintain and reestablish coral reefs in the years to come.

Topics covered include:

    • Fish surveys
    • Coral growth rates
    • Coral distribution
    • Corals on 'Cousteau garage'
    • Climate change
    • Coral bleaching
    • Coral diseases
    • Coral sponges
    • Terpios hoshinota
    • Coral predators
    • Coral urchins


Peter Vine's new book, "Growth and Decay of Coral Reefs - Fifty Years of Learning" is highly recommended. It could well be a science text book and no doubt will be a popular one for many. Yet it reads like a personal saga, spanning generations, following the author's half century of intimate relationship with reefs. Indeed this can almost be seen as a love affair. Vine traces his amazement with coral reefs back to the observations of ocean pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the middle of last century. Even then there were warning signs of the coral reef demise due to human impact. The author gives a good serving of science, along with his own observations. He poignantly voices concern for the rapidly deteriorating situation globally along with an account of some of the hopeful efforts to change the trajectory for these magical, colorful, "cities beneath the sea." This book is a worthwhile contribution to the field. John Englander, Oceanographer, Author, International Speaker, and Expert on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise.
While I’m a film maker rather than a scientist, I’ve known Pete Vine as a friend for almost fifty years. It's three years since Pete wrote Spirorbis, his fascinating and personal “collection of stories from his life.” In that book, Pete’s love and respect for Paula and the kids came shining through. I’m guessing that post publication, among the reviews, the third love of his life began making noises, wanting to be heard. That clamour by coral reefs to have their story told was well heeded by Pete the scientist. His new book “Growth and Decay of Coral Reefs: Fifty Years of Learning” does full justice to the complexity and wonder of these “cities beneath the seas”. Beautifully and creatively illustrated, it’s a widely embracing perspective of how coral reefs depend on the inter relationships of many disparate species, and what happens when that balance is disrupted. It also brings out the importance of baseline data wherein lie the lessons that can be learned to help the preservation or recovery of those reefs. This book deserves to be read by students, researchers and marine ecologists worldwide. Doug Allan, Wildlife & Expedition Documentary Cameraman