Spatial and temporal variation in reef-scale carbonate storage of large benthic foraminifera: a case study on One Tree Reef
Large benthic foraminifera (LBFs) are a vital component of coral reef carbonate production, often overlooked due to their small size. These super-abundant calcifiers are crucial to reef calcification by generation of lagoon and beach sands. Reef-scale carbonate production by LBFs is not well understood, and seasonal fluctuations in this important process are largely unquantified. The biomass of five LBF species in their algal flat habitat was quantified in the austral winter (July 2013), spring (October 2013), and summer (February 2014) at One Tree Reef. WorldView-2 satellite images were used to characterize and create LBF habitat maps based on ground-referenced photographs of algal cover. Habitat maps and LBF biomass measurements were combined to estimate carbonate storage across the entire reef flat. Total carbonate storage of LBFs on the reef flat ranged from 270 tonnes (winter) to 380 tonnes (summer). Satellite images indicate that the habitat area used by LBFs ranged from 0.6 (winter) to 0.71 km2 (spring) of a total possible area of 0.96 km2. LBF biomass was highest in the winter when algal habitat area was lowest, but total carbonate storage was the highest in the summer, when algal habitat area was intermediate. Our data suggest that biomass measurements alone do not capture total abundance of LBF populations (carbonate storage), as the area of available habitat is variable. These results suggest LBF carbonate production studies that measure biomass in discrete locations and single time points fail to capture accurate reef-scale production by not incorporating estimates of the associated algal habitat. Reef-scale measurements in this study can be incorporated into carbonate production models to determine the role of LBFs in sedimentary landforms (lagoons, beaches, etc.). Based on previous models of entire reef metabolism, our estimates indicate that LBFs contribute approximately 3.9¿5.4% of reef carbonate budgets, a previously underappreciated carbon sink.