Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2023-35
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2023-35
02 Jan 2024
 | 02 Jan 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Assessment of warm-water coral reef tipping point thresholds

Paul Pearce-Kelly, Andrew H. Altier, John F. Bruno, Christopher E. Cornwall, Melanie McField, Aarón Israel Muñiz-Castillo, Juan Rocha, Renee O. Setter, Charles Sheppard, Rosa Maria Roman-Cuesta, and Chris Yesson

Abstract. Warm-water coral reefs are facing unprecedented Anthropogenic driven threats to their continued existence as biodiverse, functional ecosystems upon which hundreds of millions of people rely. Determining the tipping point thresholds of coral reef ecosystems requires robust assessment of multiple stressors and their interactive effects. We draw upon a literature search and the recent Global Tipping Points Revision initiative to consider warm-water coral reef ecosystem tipping point threshold sensitivity. Considering observed and projected stressor impacts we recognise a global mean surface temperature (relative to pre-industrial) tipping point threshold of 1.2 °C (range 0.7–1.5 °C) and an atmospheric CO2 warming threshold of 350 ppm (range 326–400 ppm), whilst acknowledging that interacting stressors, ocean warming response time, overshoot and cascading impacts have yet to be sufficiently assessed but are likely to lower this threshold. These uncertainties around tipping point sensitivities for such a crucially important ecosystem underlines the imperative of robust assessment and, in the case of knowledge gaps, employing a precautionary principle favouring the lower range tipping point values.

Paul Pearce-Kelly, Andrew H. Altier, John F. Bruno, Christopher E. Cornwall, Melanie McField, Aarón Israel Muñiz-Castillo, Juan Rocha, Renee O. Setter, Charles Sheppard, Rosa Maria Roman-Cuesta, and Chris Yesson

Status: open (until 06 Apr 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on esd-2023-3', Anonymous Referee #1, 23 Feb 2024 reply
Paul Pearce-Kelly, Andrew H. Altier, John F. Bruno, Christopher E. Cornwall, Melanie McField, Aarón Israel Muñiz-Castillo, Juan Rocha, Renee O. Setter, Charles Sheppard, Rosa Maria Roman-Cuesta, and Chris Yesson
Paul Pearce-Kelly, Andrew H. Altier, John F. Bruno, Christopher E. Cornwall, Melanie McField, Aarón Israel Muñiz-Castillo, Juan Rocha, Renee O. Setter, Charles Sheppard, Rosa Maria Roman-Cuesta, and Chris Yesson

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Short summary
Coral reefs face unprecedented threats from multiple stressors, many of which are linked to human activities. Some stressors have tipping points, that if exceeded, will cause coral collapse. These include temperatures rising 1.2 °C above pre-industrial levels and atmospheric CO2 above 350 parts per million. Uncertainty remains for these thresholds as many stressors interact in ways we don’t understand. It is important to study these and employ a precautionary principle when planning our actions.
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