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Drivers and predictions of coral reef carbonate budget trajectories
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume: 284, Issue: 1847, Start page: 20162533
Swansea University Author: Fraser Januchowski-Hartley
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The largest threat to the long-term existent of coral reefs is climate change, and this topic has received much attention over the past 20 years as coral bleaching and mortality events have become more frequent and more intense. As a result of these events, changes in different aspects of coral reef...
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The largest threat to the long-term existent of coral reefs is climate change, and this topic has received much attention over the past 20 years as coral bleaching and mortality events have become more frequent and more intense. As a result of these events, changes in different aspects of coral reef ecosystems have potentially changed the balance of carbonate accretion and erosion. These geomorphic consequences of coral bleaching have yet to received significant attention, with most studies being conducted on reef ecology, and here we begin to rectify this omission. Using data collected on inner Seychelles reefs from 1994 to 2014 we track the carbonate budget of these reefs across the 1998 coral bleaching event when 90% of coral cover was lost, and subsequent recovery. We found that while all reefs were estimated have positive budgets, and thus were accreting in 1994, in 2005 almost all reefs were in an erosional (negative budget) state. By 2014, 7 reefs had recovered to positive carbonate budgets. However, where macroalgae was previously found, and was now dominant, carbonate budgets remained negative. Boosted regression tree models indicated that reefs with higher massive coral, low macroalgae cover and low biomass of excavating parrotfishes in 1994 were more likely to recover by 2014. However, in 2016 a second bleaching-induced mass-mortality of corals occurred. If this mortality is similar to 1998, we predict that six of eight reefs that had positive budgets in 2014 would recover to positive budgets again by 2030. However, no currently negative budget reef would recover. Our results highlighted that coral reef framework maintenance potential should not be assumed from ecological state, and that management has a role to play in promoting resilient carbonate accretion on coral reefs.
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