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On 4 June 1629, the Batavia, pride of the Dutch East India Company Fleet, was wrecked on her maiden voyage in a seemingly empty expanse of the Indian Ocean. The question "how did this happen?" led to 300 years of investigation by those curious to solve the enigma: what are corals and how are coral reefs formed?. Relying heavily on primary source material Part 1 traces the sequential evolution of scientific thought and practice as the author explores the way this evolution is reflected in the search for understanding corals. At each stage, answers lead to fresh questions that challenge investigators to solve the riddle and new branches of science emerge.
Then, with the first enigma finally understood, a new enigma arose. Why are Reefs dying? Part 2 traces the range of problems that have emerged in the past 50 years as marine, ecological, reef and climate scientists attempt to put the pieces of the jigsaw together. Is there a new "canary in the coal mine" warning of the fate of the world as we know it if man's impact on his environment continues unchecked?.
PART 1: THE NATURAL HISTORY QUEST, 1600-1900
1. The coral reef enigma
2.The scientific revolution of the 17th century
3. Discovery of the polyp
4. Origin and structure of coral reefs
5.The era of intensive investigation, 1788-1857
6. Embryos, archetypes and evolution
7. Darwinism: the new driving force in biology
8. Reef construction and symbionts
PART 2: A NEW ERA IN REEF SCIENCE
9. Field studies and taxonomic revision, 1901-1940
10. Ecosystem analysis and nuclear technology
11. A changing global environment: international response
12. Climate anomalies and the El Nino phenomenon
13. Bioturbation: unpredictable expansion
14. A new enigma: deciphering the synergism
15. Climate change and the future of reefs
16. Coral reefs in an uncertain world: the Anthropocene Epoch
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