Late afternoon seasonal transition to dissolution in a coral reef: an early warning of a net dissolving ecosystem?

There are concerns that reefs will transition from net calcifying to net dissolving in the near future due to decreasing calcification and increasing dissolution rates. Here we present in situ rates of net ecosystem calcification (NEC) and net ecosystem production (NEP) on a coral reef flat using a slack‐water approach. Up until dusk, the reef was net calcifying in most months but shifted to net dissolution in austral summer, coinciding with high respiration rates and a lower aragonite saturation state (Ωarag). The estimated sediment contribution to NEC ranged from 8 – 21 % during the day and 45 – 78 % at night, indicating that high rates of sediment dissolution may cause the transition to reef dissolution. This late afternoon seasonal transition to negative NEC may be an early warning sign of the reef shifting to a net dissolving state and may be occurring on other reefs.

Stoltenberg L., Schulz K. G., Lantz C. A., Cyronak T. & Eyre B. D, in press. Late afternoon seasonal transition to dissolution in a coral reef: an early warning of a net dissolving ecosystem? Geophysical Research Letters. Article (subscription required).

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