A review of interventions proposed to abate impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs

Coral reefs experiencing ocean acidification (OA) are likely to recover much more slowly from damage caused by acute events such as mass bleaching because OA slows coral reef growth and reproduction. To maintain reefs in a net growth or net-neutral condition, curbing the impact of OA is therefore necessary. A variety of mitigation and adaptation strategies have been proposed to abate OA impacts on reefs. However, detailed guidance for managers on the types, effectiveness, or costs of different local interventions to address OA is scarce. To advance the discussion about available interventions, this review explores and compares mitigation and adaptation techniques that have been proposed to abate OA impacts on coral reefs. We focus primarily on four categories of interventions intended to address different ecosystem service changes: phytoremediation, chemical remediation, reef restoration, and assisted evolution. We briefly touch on traditional restoration methods like marine protected areas (MPAs) and reducing secondary sources of stress. Of the techniques reviewed, most are costly and do not scale at the same pace as global reef loss. Nor do they address the root cause of OA, global carbon emissions. That said, intervention should not be an all or nothing approach; some techniques may be worth implementing at smaller scales in a coordinated way. Working to save pieces of ecosystems and buying time may help ensure that there is more to rebuild from in the future. Despite the seemingly high price tag of many of these techniques, given the potential value of regained ecosystem services, net gains may exceed implementation costs. It is certain, however, from the limited reach of coral reef interventions, that they must be undertaken as part of a suite of global-scale interventions including atmospheric CO2 reduction to preserve coral reef ecosystem function and benefits to humanity.

Albright R. & Cooley S., in press. A review of interventions proposed to abate impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs. Regional Studies in Marine Science. Article (subscription required). 

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