Computer modelling simulates real-life systems to helps us understand complex relationships and predict future scenarios using mathematics. Modelling is used every day in Australian society, like checking tomorrow’s weather forecast, or testing a bridge before the first car drives across.
Modelling is required to help us understand how ocean acidification, warming sea temperatures and water quality impact the growth and survival of corals and algae.
AIMS collaborates with CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to develop ‘eReefs’, a large computer model designed to understand how factors such as ocean acidification, warming and nutrient inputs change between regions and between seasons.
The models are also used to investigate how progressive seawater acidification and warming temperatures will translate into changes in future coral reefs, and to predict the effectiveness of management options. These models suggest that the protection of herbivores such as parrot and surgeon fishes can initially help reefs to maintain coral resilience. Past research has shown that as conditions become progressively more difficult for corals to grow, herbivores can 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 algal proliferation. As a result, this approach to management would become ineffective for the protection of the coral cover on reefs if CO2 emissions continue to rise.
AIMS and CSIRO scientists continue to refine these models. AIMS also delivers the field and laboratory data needed to improve model predictions about the future of coral reefs, supporting informed decision-making.