Can Migrating Corals Outpace Ocean Warming and Acidification?
Couce, E., Ridgwell, A. and Hendy, E.J. 2013. Future habitat suitability for coral reef ecosystems under global warming and ocean acidification. Global Change Biology 19: 3592-3606.
To investigate this potential situation, Couce et al. employed "a suite of statistical models based on the environmental factors thought to be limiting to the present equilibrium distribution of shallow-water coral reefs, perturbing them with Earth System Model projected future sea surface temperatures and aragonite saturation changes (the simulations used in Turley et al., 2010)," while considering "a range of potential future CO2 emissions scenarios," but focusing on "the consequences of the 'A2' scenario (characterized by regionally oriented economic development and high population growth, expecting ca. 850 ppm CO2 by 2100)."
After all was said and done, the three UK researchers found, "contrary to expectations, the combined impact of ocean surface temperature rise and acidification leads to little, if any, degradation in future habitat suitability across much of the Atlantic and areas currently considered 'marginal' for tropical corals, such as the eastern Equatorial Pacific." And they note, in this regard, that "these results are consistent with fossil evidence of range expansions during past warm periods."
In terms of the nitty-gritty here-and-now, Couce et al. conclude by stating that their results "present important implications for future coral reef management, as they suggest that more emphasis should be placed on conservation efforts on marginal reefs as they are not necessarily a 'lost cause'."
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