Modeling coral calcification accounting for the impacts of coral bleaching and ocean acidification

Coral reefs are diverse ecosystems threatened by rising CO2 levels that are driving the observed increases in sea surface temperature and ocean acidification. Here we present a new unified model that links changes in temperature and carbonate chemistry to coral health. Changes in coral health and population are able to explicitly modelled by linking the rates of growth, recovery and calcification to the rates of bleaching and temperature stress induced mortality. The model is underpinned by four key principles: the Arrhenius equation, thermal specialisation, resource allocation trade-offs, and adaption to local environments. These general relationships allow this model to be constructed from a range of experimental and observational data. The different characteristics of this model are also assessed against independent data to show that the model captures the observed response of corals. We also provide new insights into the factors that determine calcification rates and provide a framework based on well-known biological principles for understanding the observed global distribution of calcification rates. Our results suggest that, despite the implicit complexity of the coral reef environment, a simple model based on temperature, carbonate chemistry and different species can reproduce much of the observed response of corals to changes in temperature and ocean acidification.

Evenhuis C., Lenton A., Cantin N. E. & Lough J. M., 2014. Modeling coral calcification accounting for the impacts of coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions 11:187-249. Article

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