The Coral Sea: Physical Environment, Ecosystem Status and Biodiversity Assets

The Coral Sea, located at the southwestern rim of the Pacific Ocean, is the only tropical
marginal sea where human impacts remain relatively minor. Patterns and processes
identified within the region have global relevance as a baseline for understanding
impacts in more disturbed tropical locations. Despite 70 years of documented research,
the Coral Sea has been relatively neglected, with a slower rate of increase in publications
over the past 20 years than total marine research globally. We review current knowledge
of the Coral Sea to provide an overview of regional geology, oceanography, ecology
and fisheries. Interactions between physical features and biological assemblages influence
ecological processes and the direction and strength of connectivity among Coral
Sea ecosystems. To inform management effectively, we will need to fill some major
knowledge gaps, including geographic gaps in sampling and a lack of integration of
research themes, which hinder the understanding of most ecosystem processes.

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