Climate change, ocean chemistry, and the evolution of reefs through time

Reef building has responded to changes in climate, ocean chemistry, and a variety of other physical and biological factors during the geologic past, as have the taxa involved. Many of the data revealed by the geologic record are also relevant to human impacts on coral reefs today and their success moving forward. This chapter reviews the responses of reefs and reef builders to environmental changes over Earth’s history and relates this information to projected changes due to anthropogenic activities going forward. These changes include increasing temperature, ocean acidification, more intense storms, sea-level rise, nutrification, and sedimentation. Past events provide some insights, but are somewhat limited proxies of future impacts, largely because of the perhaps unprecedented current rate of CO2 release today. Present-day rates of climate change and ocean acidification may be higher than at any point in the geologic past, and may exceed the capacity for corals and other reef builders to tolerate or adapt to the changing environment.

Jury C. P. & Jokiel P. L., 2016. Climate change, ocean chemistry, and the evolution of reefs through time. In Hubbard D. K., Rogers C. S., Lipps J. H. & Stanley Jr. J. D. (Eds.), Coral Reefs of the World – Coral Reefs at the Crossroads 6:197-223. Chapter (subscription required).

 

 


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