Coral reefs may start dissolving when atmospheric CO2 doubles

Calcification rates in stony corals are expected to decline significantly in the near future due to ocean acidification. In this study we provide a global estimate of the decline in calcification of coral reefs as a result of increase in sea surface temperature and partial pressure of CO2. This estimate, unlike previously reported estimates, is based on an empirical rate law developed from field observations for gross community calcification as a function of aragonite degree of saturation (Ωarag), sea surface temperature and live coral cover. Calcification rates were calculated for more than 9,000 reef locations using model values of Ωarag and sea surface temperature at different levels of atmospheric CO2. The maps we produced show that by the time atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 will reach 560 ppm all coral reefs will cease to grow and start to dissolve.



Silverman, J., Lazar, B., Cao, L., Caldeira, K., and Erez, J., 2009. Coral reefs may start dissolving when atmospheric CO2 doubles, Geophysical Research Letters: 36, L05606. Article (subscription required).

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