Testing the above ecological hypotheses will allow us to question common generalizations about the composition and structure of pristine marine ecosystems, generalizations that were formulated long after extensive exploitation began. As such, the results of this project may change our understanding of the functioning of coral reef ecosystems by providing a taxonomically broad and quantitatively rigorous baseline of how healthy coral reefs used to look. By comparing this pristine baseline with data from neighboring ecosystems, we will gain insights into possible pathways of deterioration of reef health with increasing levels of disturbance. Today, the majority of coral reefs are far from the pristine, unaffected state from which they began. However, conservation strategies are aiming to protect remaining healthy reefs and to restore some damaged reefs. Our data will provide information on the conditions in which disturbed reefs likely began, and will provide a potential goal for which (or a trajectory toward which) restoration programs can aim.