Evaluation of coral reef carbonate production models at a global scale

Jones, N. S.; Ridgwell, A.; Hendy, E. J.
September 2014
Biogeosciences Discussions;2014, Vol. 11 Issue 9, p12895
Academic Journal
Calcification by coral reef communities is estimated to account for half of all carbonate produced in shallow water environments and more than 25% of the total carbonate buried in marine sediments globally. Production of calcium carbonate by coral reefs is therefore an important component of the global carbon cycle. It is also threatened by future global warming and other global change pressures. Numerical models of reefal carbonate production are essential for understanding how carbonate deposition responds to environmental conditions including future atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but these models must first be evaluated in terms of their skill in recreating present day calcification rates. Here we evaluate four published model descriptions of reef carbonate production in terms of their predictive power, at both local and global scales, by comparing carbonate budget outputs with independent estimates. We also compile available global data on reef calcification to produce an observation-based dataset for the model evaluation. The four calcification models are based on functions sensitive to combinations of light availability, aragonite saturation (Ωa) and temperature and were implemented within a specifically-developed global framework, the Global Reef Accretion Model (GRAM). None of the four models correlated with independent rate estimates of whole reef calcification. The temperature-only based approach was the only model output to significantly correlate with coral-calcification rate observations. The absence of any predictive power for whole reef systems, even when consistent at the scale of individual corals, points to the overriding importance of coral cover estimates in the calculations. Our work highlights the need for an ecosystem modeling approach, accounting for population dynamics in terms of mortality and recruitment and hence coral cover, in estimating global reef carbonate budgets. In addition, validation of reef carbonate budgets is severely hampered by limited and inconsistent methodology in reef-scale observations.


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