Estimating regional coral reef calcium carbonate production from remotely sensed seafloor maps
Carbonate production on coral reefs is responsible for the provision of beach sands, for the maintenance of seawater chemical balances and for the growth of reef structure and associated habitat complexity. Key carbonate producers including hard coral, crustose coralline algae, foraminiferal sand and Halimeda were mapped from satellite imagery (spatial resolution 2.5 m, mean overall accuracy = 81%) and an upscaling model was applied to estimate carbonate production. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to evaluate the influence of employing different calcification rates for live coral on the upscaling model. Contemporary coral reef carbonate production for the 21 reef platforms of the Capricorn-Bunker Group (southern Great Barrier Reef) is estimated to be between 489,000 and 659,000 t per year based on seawater chemistry, community composition, calcification rates and reef structural complexity (rugosity). The upscaling model was relatively insensitive to different parameterisations of live coral calcification employed, probably due to live coral being a relatively minor contributor by area (approximately 18% of total reef area throughout the study region). This suggests regional scale seafloor characteristics, such as percentage of area dominated by substrates prone to dissolution (e.g. coral rubble), have a strong bearing on calcium carbonate production and need to be given greater consideration The upscaling framework presented provides a new method for quantifying regional carbonate production that could be applied globally, and provides a valuable baseline against which future changes to carbonate production in this region can be assessed.