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Under pressure! Building a coral reef under climate change and human impacts

Author Information

  • Name: Travis Courtney, PhD
  • Position and Institution: Postdoctoral researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Contact:
  • Available for contact for questions and classroom visits: Yes
  • Year contributed: 2020


  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Science Domain: Life Sciences
  • PE Code: HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7


Corals turn seawater into massive coral reef structures that we can see from space. These structures protect our shorelines, provide habitat for fish, and are culturally significant for hundreds of millions of people around the planet. Recent news has highlighted the death of coral reefs, but can coral reefs really die? In this lesson plan, students will play a game to “build” a coral reef in 1950 and 2050 to understand how climate change and human impacts make it more difficult for coral reefs to build their calcium carbonate structures. Students will use this game to think more critically about the role of disturbances in building a coral reef and how climate change increases those disturbances to potentially change coral reef ecosystem states. At the end of the lesson, students can apply what they’ve learned to formulate hypotheses about how climate change may affect the more local kelp forest ecosystems in San Diego and propose solutions to improve coral reef and kelp forest health.


  • coral reef
  • ecosystem
  • resilience
  • climate change
  • disturbances
  • remote learning


sandiego/under_pressure_-_building_a_coral_reef_under_climate_change_and_human_impacts.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/28 15:36 (external edit)