Global coral reef ecosystems exhibit declining calcification and increasing primary productivity

Long-term coral reef resilience to multiple stressors depends on their ability to maintain positive calcification rates. Estimates of coral ecosystem calcification and organic productivity provide insight into the environmental drivers and temporal changes in reef condition. Here, we analyse global spatiotemporal trends and drivers of coral reef calcification using a meta-analysis of ecosystem-scale case studies. A linear mixed effects regression model was used to test whether ecosystem-scale calcification is related to seasonality, methodology, calcifier cover, year, depth, wave action, latitude, duration of data collection, coral reef state, Ωar, temperature and organic productivity. Global ecosystem calcification estimated from changes in seawater carbonate chemistry was driven primarily by depth and benthic calcifier cover. Current and future declines in coral cover will significantly affect the global reef carbonate budget, even before considering the effects of sub-lethal stressors on calcification rates. Repeatedly studied reefs exhibited declining calcification of 4.3 ± 1.9% per year (x̄  = 1.8 ± 0.7 mmol m−2 d−1 yr−1), and increasing organic productivity at 3.0 ± 0.8 mmol m−2 d−1 per year since 1970. Therefore, coral reef ecosystems are experiencing a shift in their essential metabolic processes of calcification and photosynthesis, and could become net dissolving worldwide around 2054.

Davis K. L., Colefax A. P., Tucker J. P., Kelaher B. P. & Santos I. R., 2021. Global coral reef ecosystems exhibit declining calcification and increasing primary productivity. Communications Earth & Environment 2: 105. doi: 10.1038/s43247-021-00168-w. Article.

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