Growth rates of Florida corals from 1937 to 1996 and their response to climate change

Ocean acidification causes declines in calcification rates of corals because of decreasing aragonite saturation states (Ωarag). Recent evidence also indicates that increasing sea surface temperatures may have already reduced growth and calcification rates because of the stenothermic threshold of localized coral populations. Density banding in coral skeletons provides a record of growth over the coral’s lifespan. Here we present coral extension, bulk density and calcification master chronologies from seven subtropical corals (Montastraea faveolata) located in the Florida Keys, USA with a 60-year common period, 1937–1996. Linear trends indicate that extension increased, density decreased and calcification remained stable while the most recent decade was not significantly different than decadal averages over the preceding 50 years for extension and calcification. The results suggest that growth rates in this species of subtropical coral have been tolerant to recent climatic changes up to the time of collection (1996).

Helmle K. P., Dodge R. E., Swart P. K., Gledhill D. K. & Eakin C. M., 2011. Growth rates of Florida corals from 1937 to 1996 and their response to climate change. Nature Communications 2:215. Article (subscription required).

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