Coral reefs and their communities may be severely affected by rising CO2 levels

November 09, 2016

Rising CO2 levels may affect most of the world's coral reefs and the populations which depend on them by 2050, according to a study published November 9, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Linwood Pendleton and Adrien Comte from the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France, and colleagues.

The effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels include ocean acidification and rising sea surface temperatures, which put shallow warm-water coral reefs at risk. This could also affect the people who depend on the reefs for their livelihoods for fishing, tourism, or as natural barriers that protect shorelines.

The authors of the present study used an indicator approach to identify countries where coral reef-dependent people were most likely to be affected by 2050. They scored and mapped two indicators of CO2-driven coral reef stress, ocean acidification and rising sea surface temperatures, along with two indicators of human dependence on coral reefs. Combining these maps of indicator scores allowed the researchers to identify regions where humans were most likely to be affected by increasing atmospheric CO2 levels.

The authors found that most of the world's coral reefs were likely to be affected by either warmer seas or more acidic oceans. They predicted that countries in Oceania would be amongst the first affected by CO2-driven coral reef stress, followed by Southeast Asian countries in the Coral Triangle such as Indonesia, which are highly dependent on coral reefs. Countries predicted to be most likely to experience severe ocean acidification are generally different from those predicted to experience the earliest onset of coral bleaching, with acidification projected to be worse for countries at the upper and lower latitudinal bounds of coral reef distribution such as Baja California (Mexico), Japan, China, and southern Australia.

Unfortunately, many of the countries that are most dependent upon coral reefs are also the countries for which data are least robust, and the authors note that international and regional efforts will be needed to overcome obstacles to obtaining good data globally.

"Our study finds areas of high human dependence on coral reefs also facing high combined threats from future stresses due to climate change (bleaching) and ocean acidification. By 2050, coastal communities in Western Mexico, Micronesia, Indonesia, parts of Australia and Southeast Asia will bear the brunt of damage to coral reefs caused by rising temperatures and ocean acidification," said Linwood Pendleton, the study's lead author, a senior scholar at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and an International Chair of Excellence at the European Institute of Marine Studies.
In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper:

Citation: Pendleton L, Comte A, Langdon C, Ekstrom JA, Cooley SR, Suatoni L, et al. (2016) Coral Reefs and People in a High-CO2 World: Where Can Science Make a Difference to People? PLoS ONE 11(11): e0164699. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0164699

Funding: This work was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation DBI-1052875, a grant from the Prince Albert II Foundation, and research effort for LP and AC was supported by the "Laboratoire d'Excellence" LabexMER (ANR-10-LABX-19), co-funded by a grant from the French government under the program "Investissements 'Avenir" and the Region of Brittany. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to