Large-scale Stress Factors Affecting Coral Reefs: Open Ocean Sea Surface Temperature and Surface Seawater Aragonite Saturation Over the Next 400 Years

This study seeks to investigate three IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) representative pathways (RCP) and their differing impacts of environmental stressors to coral reefs including rising sea surface temperatures and changes in seawater aragonite saturation, which relates to atmospheric carbon and ocean acidification.

A climate model, the UVic Earth System Climate Model, was used in this study to predict sea surface temperatures, open water aragonite saturation levels, and susceptibility of coral reefs to thermal stress over the next 400 years. Results of this work showed that by year 2030, 66–85% of the reef locations considered will become ‘thermally marginal’ and experience severe bleaching events at least once every 10 years.

Regardless of which RCP concentration was used in researcher’s simulations, virtually every reef considered in this study (97%) would experience severe thermal stress by 2050. Study simulations also showed that annual mean seawater aragonite thresholds will be exceeded within the first half of this century.

Author: Meissner, K. J., T. Lippmann, and A. Sen Gupta
Year: 2012
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Coral Reefs 31(2): 309-319. doi:10.1007/s00338-011-0866-8

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