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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 26;95(11):6566-9.

Anomalies in coral reef community metabolism and their potential importance in the reef CO2 source-sink debate.

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Australian Institute of Marine Science, Private Mail Bag No. 3, Mail Centre, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia.


It is not certain whether coral reefs are sources of or sinks for atmospheric CO2. Air-sea exchange of CO2 over reefs has been measured directly and inferred from changes in the seawater carbonate equilibrium. Such measurements have provided conflicting results. We provide community metabolic data that indicate that large changes in CO2 concentration can occur in coral reef waters via biogeochemical processes not directly associated with photosynthesis, respiration, calcification, and CaCO3 dissolution. These processes can significantly distort estimates of reef calcification and net productivity and obscure the contribution of coral reefs to global air-sea exchange of CO2. They may, nonetheless, explain apparent anomalies in the metabolic performance of reefs close to land and reconcile the differing experimental findings that have given rise to the CO2 debate.

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