Climatic Change

, Volume 112, Issue 3–4, pp 945–961 | Cite as

Safeguarding coastal coral communities on the central Great Barrier Reef (Australia) against climate change: realizable local and global actions

  • Scott Andrew Wooldridge
  • Terence J. Done
  • Colette R. Thomas
  • Iain I. Gordon
  • Paul A. Marshall
  • Roger N. Jones


The threats of wide-scale coral bleaching and reef demise associated with anthropogenic (global) climate change are widely known. Less well considered is the contributing role of conditions local to the reef, in particular reef water quality, in co-determining the physiological tolerance of corals to increasing sea temperatures and declining pH. Here, the modelled benefit of reduced exposure to dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) in terrestrial runoff, which raises the thermal tolerance of coastal coral communities on the central Great Barrier Reef (Australia), is considered alongside alternative future warming scenarios. The simulations highlight that an 80% reduction in DIN ‘buys’ an additional ~50–60 years of reef-building capacity for No Mitigation (‘business-as-usual’) bleaching projections. Moreover, the integrated management benefits provided by: (i) local reductions of ~50% in DIN contained in river loads, and (ii) global stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 below 450 ppm can help ensure the persistence of hard-coral-dominated reefscapes beyond 2100. The simulations reinforce the message that beyond the global imperative to mitigate future atmospheric CO2 emissions there still remains the need for effective local management actions that enhance the resistance and resilience of coral reef communities to the impacts of climate change.


Dissolve Inorganic Nitrogen Great Barrier Reef Ocean Acidification Dissolve Inorganic Nitrogen Concentration Annual Exceedence Probability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by the Australian Government’s Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility (MTSRF). We acknowledge the helpful suggestions of two anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

10584_2011_229_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary Table A1 Global circulation models used to predict future sea surface temperature patterns (DOCX 15 kb)
10584_2011_229_MOESM2_ESM.docx (49 kb)
Supplementary Fig. A1 Conceptual representation of the z-score approach for modelling the AEP of LD50 mortality events on the GBR. With the z-score approach, the likelihood of exceeding the spatially explicit LD50 threshold can be conceptualised as the area under the curve in excess of the threshold, Z (DOCX 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Andrew Wooldridge
    • 1
  • Terence J. Done
    • 1
  • Colette R. Thomas
    • 2
  • Iain I. Gordon
    • 2
    • 3
  • Paul A. Marshall
    • 4
  • Roger N. Jones
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.The James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  4. 4.Great Barrier Reef Marine Park AuthorityTownsvilleAustralia
  5. 5.Centre for Strategic Economic StudiesVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  6. 6.Formerly CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchAspendaleAustralia

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