The ecology of many coral reefs has changed markedly over recent decades in response to various combinations of local and global stressors. These ecological changes have important implications for the abundance of taxa that regulate the production and erosion of skeletal carbonates, and thus for many of the geo‐ecological functions that coral reefs provide, including reef framework production and sediment generation, the maintenance of reef habitat complexity and reef growth potential. These functional attributes underpin many of the ecosystem goods and services that reefs provide to society. In the absence of pervasive stressors, recovery of degraded coral communities has been observed, resulting in high net‐positive budgets being regained. However, the frequency and intensity of climate‐driven bleaching events are predicted to increase over the next decades. This would increase the spatial footprint of disturbances and exacerbate the magnitude of the changes described here, limiting the capacity of many reefs to maintain their geo‐ecological functions.