Coral reefs and global change

A new WIOMSA MAMSA project has been funded: Coral reefs and global change – a historical perspective spanning the western Indian Ocean (MASMA/CC/2010/02 project). This project will run from 1/5/2010 until 30/4/2012.

Below is a brief summary of planned research, anyone wanting further information should please contact: jens.zinke@nioz.nl or chris.reason@uct.ac.za

Project Summary:
This study proposes to examine the spatial and temporal environmental changes affecting coral reef ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean. In this multi-disciplinary project, environmental geochemists dealing with the direct data acquisition on biological archives (corals), will work in partnership with climate scientists, environmental modellers and ecologists. This will allow direct comparison of the geochemical data obtained by the geochemist with models of river discharge and pollution and ecological changes. Integration of these data should provide a far better understanding of the entire ecosystem in the region investigated and lead to improved sustainable management of the coastal environment .The project is divided into two interdependent sub-projects:

1) a coral proxy-climate-based, and
2) a model-ecology-based project.

As part of sub-project 1, we will drill coral cores to reconstruct environmental changes in various reef complexes across the tropical Indian Ocean (Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya) in relation to natural climate change and anthropogenic influences.

The major objective of sub-project 2 will be the quantification of land use and hydrological change in tropical catchments over decadal to century scales, and to determine the relative importance of anthropogenic versus climate forcing. These data will provide the link between land use changes, river runoff, sediment compositions and the coral proxy records that are required to distinguish the relative roles of natural and anthropogenic induced changes in the coral reefs. Finally, we will link the results of subproject 1 and 2 to long-term ecological reef monitoring programmes of our partner institutions to infer the impact on temporal and spatial biodiversity changes in coral reef ecosystems across the western Indian Ocean.

The results of this project will provide a broader management context and to allow conservation scientists to identify environments where corals are expected to survive climate change and insure that management and conservation actions are focused on these key areas.