Living coral tissue slows skeletal dissolution related to ocean acidification

Climate change is causing major changes to marine ecosystems globally, with ocean acidification of particular concern for coral reefs. Using a 200 d in situ carbon dioxide enrichment study on Heron Island, Australia, we simulated future ocean acidification conditions, and found reduced pH led to a drastic decline in net calcification of living corals to no net growth, and accelerated disintegration of dead corals. Net calcification declined more severely than in previous studies due to exposure to the natural community of bioeroding organisms in this in situ study and to a longer experimental duration. Our data suggest that reef flat corals reach net dissolution at an aragonite saturation state (ΩAR) of 2.3 (95% confidence interval: 1.8–2.8) with 100% living coral cover and at ΩAR > 3.5 with 30% living coral cover. This model suggests that areas of the reef with relatively low coral mortality, where living coral cover is high, are likely to be resistant to carbon dioxide-induced reef dissolution.

Kline D. I., Teneva L., Okamoto D. K., Schneider K., Caldeira K., Miard T., Chai A., Marker M., Dunbar R. B., Mitchell B. G., Dove S. & Hoegh-Guldberg O., 2019. Living coral tissue slows skeletal dissolution related to ocean acidification. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3: 1438-1444. Article (subscription required).


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