Models are used to understand how changes in the seawater chemistry will translate into changes in future coral reefs, and the effectiveness of different management options. Graphic: Anthony et al (2011)
Ocean acidification, and the growth and survival of corals and algae, are all interlinked. AIMS uses computer models to understand how factors such as increasing ocean acidification, warming and nutrient inputs will translate into changes in future coral reefs, and to predict the effectiveness of management options.
AIMS research scientist Dr Ken Anthony, together with collaborators, has developed models to predict future changes. These models suggest that the protection of herbivores can initially help reefs to maintain coral resilience. Past research has shown that as conditions become progressively more difficult for corals to grow, herbivores, such as parrot fish, prevent the proliferation of algae. However at more severe levels of warming and acidification, the models predicted that even high herbivore abundance and good water quality were insufficient to prevent a proliferation of algae. As a result, this approach to management became ineffective for the protection of the coral cover on reefs.
AIMS scientists continue to refine models and deliver the data needed to support informed decision-making. For example, similar models can be used to combine the results obtained from the AIMS field and laboratory experiments to improve predictions about the future of coral reefs.