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Desert dusts convert coral reefs into carbon storage

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Coral reef in the Gulf of Aqaba.Credit: Geological Survey Israel; University of Queensland

An international study comparing data from Heron Reef and the Middle East’s Gulf of Aqaba has disproved the long-held theory that coral reefs only have the capacity to release carbon dioxide.2.

The first discovery of its kind is the result of an international study led by the University of Queensland, which found that dust blown from nearby deserts can be transformed coral reef to CO2 sink.

Professor Hamish McGowan of UQ’s Department of Geoenvironmental Sciences said the discovery was made after researchers observed a correlation with CO influx.2 A period of increased dust concentration in the air around coral reefs.

“We were amazed at how important a role dust accumulation plays in switching coral reefs from CO.2 Source to CO2 It will sink,” said Professor McGowan.

“This process was previously thought to be impossible, but our research proves otherwise.

“We found that dust deposited in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, which is traditionally low in nutrients and low in chlorophyll, actually fertilizes and improves coral growth conditions and photosynthesis. coral reef ecosystem.”

Professor McGowan said the results will allow the development of a more accurate carbon budget for the world’s oceans.

“The processes identified in this study are indeed contributing to more accurate calculations of carbon around the world,” said Professor McGowan.

“This helps predict the impact of atmospheric carbon on climate and climate-sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs.”

Dust turns coral reefs into carbon reservoirs

Researchers observe coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba.Credit: Geological Survey Israel; University of Queensland

Professor Nadav Lensky of Geological Survey Israel said these improved conditions mean that desert reefs could serve as refuges for corals.

“In this study, we also measured extreme evaporation rates in coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northernmost tip of the Red Sea,” said Professor Lensky.

“This process consumes a lot of heat and water temperature Usually below the threshold that causes coral bleaching.

“These processes, combined with the positive impact of dust deposition, make the Gulf of Aqaba a more supportive environment for coral growth.”

This study establishes a causal control of reef water temperature, in contrast to previous projections that focused on correlations between global warming and coral bleaching.

Professor Lensky says these findings will allow researchers to pinpoint the causes of extreme water temperature events that lead to coral bleaching, for example.

“Our study, which included an analysis of data collected at Heron Reef on the Great Barrier Reef, confirmed the important role of local meteorology and general weather patterns in determining reef water temperature.” Professor Lensky said.

“To further test and understand how dust affects CO in the air and sea2 Further research needs to be done on how this changes in different seasons and locations, such as reefs like Ningaloo Reef in northwest Australia. ”

This research was supported by the Zelman Cowen Academic Initiatives fund, Frontiers of marine science, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceansand the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmosphere.

For more information:
Hamish McGowan et al, Direct measurements of CO 2 air-sea exchange in peri-desert coral reefs in the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba), Israel, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (2022). DOI: 10.1029/2022JC018548

Shai Avir et al, Identifying evaporative heat reserves to protect coral reefs in a warming world – Eilat Gulf (Aqaba), Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmosphere (2022). DOI: 10.1029/2022JD036845

Hamish McGowan et al, Coral Reef Coupling to the Atmospheric Boundary Layer via Heat, Moisture, and Momentum Exchange: Case Studies from Coral Reefs Around the Tropics and Deserts, Frontiers of marine science (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2022.900679

Quote: Desert Dust Converts Coral Reefs into Carbon Storage (31 Jan 2023) from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-coral-reefs-carbon-storage.html on 1 Feb 2023 acquisition

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