Publication Details

Hamylton, S., Pescud, A., Leon, J. X. and Callaghan, D. (2013). A geospatial assessment of the relationship between reef flat community calcium carbonate production and wave energy. Coral Reefs, 32 (4), 1025-1039.


The ability of benthic communities inhabiting coral reefs to produce calcium carbonate underpins the development of reef platforms and associated sedimentary landforms, as well as the fixation of inorganic carbon and buffering of diurnal pH fluctuations in ocean surface waters. Quantification of the relationship between reef flat community calcium carbonate production and wave energy provides an empirical basis for understanding and managing this functionally important process. This study employs geospatial techniques across the reef platform at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, to (1) map the distribution and estimate the total magnitude of reef community carbonate production and (2) empirically ascertain the influence of wave energy on community carbonate production. A World-View-2 satellite image and a field data set of 364 ground referencing points are employed, along with data on physical reef characteristics (e.g. bathymetry, rugosity) to map and validate the spatial distribution of the four major community carbonate producers (live coral, carbonate sand, green calcareous macroalgae and encrusting calcified algae) across the reef platform. Carbonate production is estimated for the complete reef platform from the composition of these community components. A synoptic model of wave energy is developed using the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) two-dimensional model for the entire reef platform. The relationship between locally derived measures of carbonate production and wave energy is evaluated at both the global scale and local scale along spatial gradients of wave energy traversing the reef platform. A wave energy threshold is identified, below which carbonate production levels appear to increase with wave energy and above which mechanical forcing reduces community production. This implies an optimal set of hydrodynamic conditions characterized by wave energy levels of approximately 300 J m−2, providing an empirical basis for management of potential changes in community carbonate production associated with climate change-driven increases in wave energy.

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