Anthropogenic ocean warming and acidification recorded by Sr/Ca, Li/Mg, δ11B and B/Ca in Porites coral from the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia

Highlights

• Ocean warming has accelerated since the 1970s in the nearshore Kimberley.

• Coral calcification remains less affected and ‘normal’ seasonal coral internal carbonate chemistry is observed.

• Under intensified warming, coral’s ability to concentrate metabolic DIC has been reduced.

• Ocean acidification has led to the secular reduction of pHcf.

Abstract

The impact of climate changes on corals living in naturally extreme environments is poorly understood but crucial to longer-term sustainability of coral reefs. Here we report century-long temperature (Sr/Ca and Li/Mg) and calcifying fluid (CF) carbonate chemistry (δ11B and B/Ca) records for a long-lived (1919 to 2016) Porites coral from the high thermally variable Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. We investigate how increasing temperatures and ocean acidification are manifested in the carbonate chemistry of coral’s CF and impacts of climate change on calcification. Using Sr/Ca and Li/Mg multiproxy we show that annual temperature in the nearshore Kimberley exhibited a gradual increase (0.009 ± 0.003 °C/yr) from the 1920s onward. However for the most recent years (2000–2015) more rapid summer warming (0.05 ± 0.01 °C/yr) are registered, indicative of intensified warming. Despite that, we find no significant trend for calcification rate of this coral over the past century, as well as ‘normal’ seasonal variability in coral’s CF carbonate chemistry. Importantly, the coral’s ability to concentrate inorganic carbon seems to be affected by recent warming, with reduced DICcf observed during 2008 to 2015, while the minimally-affected pHcf acts to compensate the decreases of DICcf with the calcification rate showing only slight decrease. Additionally, we also find that ocean acidification has clearly led to the long-term reduction in the pH of the CF.

Chen X., D’Olivo J. P., Wei G. & McCulloch M., in press. Anthropogenic ocean warming and acidification recorded by Sr/Ca, Li/Mg, δ11B and B/Ca in Porites coral from the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Article (subscription required).

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book