Linsley, Braddock K., Dunbar, Robert B., Dassié, Emilie P., Tangri, Neil, Wu, Henry C., Brenner, Logan D. and Wellington, Gerard M. (2019) Coral carbon isotope sensitivity to growth rate and water depth with paleo-sea level implications. Nature Communications, 10 (1). p. 2056. DOI

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Although reef coral skeletal carbon isotopes (δ13C) are routinely measured, interpretation remains controversial. Here we show results of a consistent inverse relationship between coral δ13C and skeletal extension rate over the last several centuries in Porites corals at Fiji, Tonga, Rarotonga and American Samoa in the southwest Pacific. Beginning in the 1950s, this relationship breaks down as the atmospheric 13C Suess effect shifts skeletal δ13C > 1.0‰ lower. We also compiled coral δ13C from a global array of sites and find that mean coral δ13C decreases by −1.4‰ for every 5 m increase in water depth (R = 0.68, p < 0.01). This highlights the fundamental sensitivity of coral δ13C to endosymbiotic photosynthesis. Collectively, these results suggest that photosynthetic rate largely determines mean coral δ13C while changes in extension rate and metabolic effects over time modulate skeletal δ13C around this mean value. The newly quantified coral δ13C-water depth relationship may be an effective tool for improving the precision of paleo-sea level reconstruction using corals.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Biogeochemistry and Geology > Coral Climatology
Affiliations > Not ZMT
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 2041-1723
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 12:58

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