Coral reef aerosol emissions in response to irradiance stress in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Abstract

We investigate the correlation between stress-related compounds produced by corals of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and local atmospheric properties—an issue that goes to the core of the coral ecosystem’s ability to survive climate change. We relate the variability in a satellite decadal time series of fine-mode aerosol optical depth (AOD) to a coral stress metric, formulated as a function of irradiance, water clarity, and tide, at Heron Island in the southern GBR. We found that AOD was correlated with the coral stress metric, and the correlation increased at low wind speeds, when horizontal advection of air masses was low and the production of non-biogenic aerosols was minimal. We posit that coral reefs may be able to protect themselves from irradiance stress during calm weather by affecting the optical properties of the atmosphere and local incident solar radiation.

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Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the NASA Ocean Biology Processing Group for providing the MODIS data on our range of ocean parameters, the National Climatic Data Center (NOAA) for the sea surface wind data, and the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology for the provision of regional tidal height data.

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Cropp, R., Gabric, A., van Tran, D. et al. Coral reef aerosol emissions in response to irradiance stress in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Ambio 47, 671–681 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1018-y

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Keywords

  • Aerosols
  • Coral bleaching
  • Corals
  • GBR
  • Irradiance stress