Geophysical Research Letters

Coral reef calcification and climate change: The effect of ocean warming



[1] Coral reefs are constructed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Deposition of CaCO3 (calcification) by corals and other reef organisms is controlled by the saturation state of CaCO3 in seawater (Ω) and sea surface temperature (SST). Previous studies have neglected the effects of ocean warming in predicting future coral reef calcification rates. In this study we take into account both these effects by combining empirical relationships between coral calcification rate and Ω and SST with output from a climate model to predict changes in coral reef calcification rates. Our analysis suggests that annual average coral reef calcification rate will increase with future ocean warming and eventually exceed pre-industrial rates by about 35% by 2100. Our results suggest that present coral reef calcification rates are equivalent to levels in the late 19th century and does not support previous suggestions of large and potentially catastrophic decreases in the future.