Carribean-wide decline in carbonate production threatens coral reef growth – cover

Date: 2013-03-06

Reference number: OPUSeJ 201303052300COR


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Title:  Caribbean-wide decline in carbonate production threatens coral reef growth

Authors:  Chris T. Perry, Gary N. Murphy, Paul S. Kench, Scott G. Smithers, Evan N. Edinger, Robert S. Steneck & Peter J. Mumby

Abstract:  Global-scale deteriorations in coral reef health have caused major shifts in species composition. One projected consequence is a lowering of reef carbonate production rates, potentially impairing reef growth, compromising ecosystem functionality and ultimately leading to net reef erosion. Here, using measures of gross and net carbonate production and erosion from 19 Caribbean reefs, we show that contemporary carbonate production rates are now substantially below historical (mid- to late-Holocene) values. On average, current production rates are reduced by at least 50%, and 37% of surveyed sites were net erosional. Calculated accretion rates (mm year−1) for shallow fore-reef habitats are also close to an order of magnitude lower than Holocene averages. A live coral cover threshold of ~10% appears critical to maintaining positive production states. Below this ecological threshold carbonate budgets typically become net negative and threaten reef accretion. Collectively, these data suggest that recent ecological declines are now suppressing Caribbean reef growth potential.

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Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK: Chris T. Perry & Gary N. Murphy

School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand: Paul S. Kench

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia: Scott G. Smithers

Department of Geography, Memorial University, St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada A1B 3X9: Evan N. Edinger

School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Darling Marine Centre, Walpole, Maine 04573, USA: Robert S. Steneck

Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia: Peter J. Mumby

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author:  Chris T. Perry

Keywords:  N/A

Subject:  Science/coral reef ecology, coral reef environmental chemistry

Language: English

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Citation: Perry, C T et al, 2013, “Carribean-wide decline in carbonate production threatens coral reef growth”, Nature communications 4:1402. doi:10.1038/ncomms2409.

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