Raharinirina, Nomenjanahary Alexia, Acevedo-Trejos, Esteban and Merico, Agostino ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8095-8056 (2022) Modelling the acclimation capacity of coral reefs to a warming ocean. PLOS Computational Biology, 18 (5). e1010099. DOI https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010099.

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The symbiotic relationship between corals and photosynthetic algae is the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. This relationship breaks down, leading to coral death, when sea temperature exceeds the thermal tolerance of the coral-algae complex. While acclimation via phenotypic plasticity at the organismal level is an important mechanism for corals to cope with global warming, community-based shifts in response to acclimating capacities may give valuable indications about the future of corals at a regional scale. Reliable regional-scale predictions, however, are hampered by uncertainties on the speed with which coral communities will be able to acclimate. Here we present a trait-based, acclimation dynamics model, which we use in combination with observational data, to provide a first, crude estimate of the speed of coral acclimation at the community level and to investigate the effects of different global warming scenarios on three iconic reef ecosystems of the tropics: Great Barrier Reef, South East Asia, and Caribbean. The model predicts that coral acclimation may confer some level of protection by delaying the decline of some reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef. However, the current rates of acclimation will not be sufficient to rescue corals from global warming. Based on our estimates of coral acclimation capacities, the model results suggest substantial declines in coral abundances in all three regions, ranging from 12% to 55%, depending on the region and on the climate change scenario considered. Our results highlight the importance and urgency of precise assessments and quantitative estimates, for example through laboratory experiments, of the natural acclimation capacity of corals and of the speed with which corals may be able to acclimate to global warming.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Systems Ecology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010099
ISSN: 1553-7358
Date Deposited: 20 May 2022 11:33
Last Modified: 20 May 2022 11:33
URI: http://cris.leibniz-zmt.de/id/eprint/4930

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