Nav: Home

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:

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.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...