Lower Ocean Temperatures Key To Saving Coral Reefs
May 14, 2013

Lower Ocean Temperatures Key To Saving Coral Reefs

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

University of Bristol researchers writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters say limiting global warming would be key to buying the coral reefs some more time.

The researchers found restricting greenhouse warming to just 50-100 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide, or approximately half the increase since the Industrial Revolution, would avoid large-scale reductions in reef habitat occurring in the future.

"If sea surface temperatures continue to rise, our models predict a large habitat collapse in the tropical western Pacific which would affect some of the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world," researcher Elena Couce said in a statement. "To protect shallow-water tropical coral reefs, the warming experienced by the world´s oceans needs to be limited."

The team used computer models to look into how shallow-water tropical coral reef habitats will be responding to climate change in the future. They modeled whether artificial means of limiting global temperatures could help.

According to the study, if geoengineering could be successfully deployed then the decline of suitable habitats for tropical coral reefs could be slowed. The team found that over-engineering the climate could actually be detrimental as well, because tropical corals do not thrive in overly-cool conditions either.

"The use of geoengineering technologies cannot safeguard coral habitat long term because ocean acidification will continue unabated. Decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the only way to address reef decline caused by ocean acidification," Couce said.

Dr Erica Hendy, one of the co-authors of the paper, titled "Tropical coral reef habitat in a geoengineered, high-CO2 world," said this was the first attempt to model the consequences of using solar radiation geoengineering on a marine ecosystem.

"There are many dangers associated with deliberate human interventions in the climate system and a lot more work is needed to fully appreciate the consequences of intervening in this way," Hendy said.

Another team of researchers just wrote in the recent edition of Current Biology that with the right local protection and assertive action against greenhouse gases, the reefs' future is not as grim as one could assume.

“Business as usual isn´t going to cut it,” said Peter Mumby of The University of Queensland (UQ). “The good news is that it does seem possible to maintain reefs — we just have to be serious about doing something. It also means that local reef management — efforts to curb pollution and overfishing — are absolutely justified. Some have claimed that the climate change problem is so great that local management is futile. We show that this viewpoint is wrongheaded.”