Historical trends in pH and carbonate biogeochemistry on the Belize Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Coral reefs are important ecosystems that are increasingly negatively impacted by human activities. Understanding which anthropogenic stressors play the most significant role in their decline is vital for the accurate prediction of future trends in coral reef health and for effective mitigation of these threats. Here we present annually resolved boron and carbon isotope measurements of two cores capturing the past 90 years of growth of the tropical reef‐building coral Siderastrea siderea from the Belize Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The pairing of these two isotope systems allows us to parse the reconstructed pH change into relative changes in net ecosystem productivity and net ecosystem calcification between the two locations. This approach reveals that the relationship between seawater pH and coral calcification, at both a colony and ecosystem level, is complex and cannot simply be modeled as linear or even positive. This study also underscores both the utility of coupled δ11B‐δ13C measurements in tracing past biogeochemical cycling in coral reefs and the complexity of this cycling relative to the open ocean.

Fowell S., Foster G. L., Ries J., Castillo K. D., de la Vega E., Tyrrell T., Donald H. K. & Chalk T. B., in press. Historical trends in pH and carbonate biogeochemistry on the Belize Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Geophysical Research Letters. Article (subscription required).

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