The synergistic effects of ocean acidification and organic metabolism on calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolution in coral reef sediments

Document Type


Publication details

Cyronak, T & Eyre, BD 2016, 'The synergistic effects of ocean acidification and organic metabolism on calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolution in coral reef sediments', Marine Chemistry, vol. 183, pp. 1-20.

Published version available from:


Peer Reviewed



Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to reduce the net ecosystem calcification (NEC) rates and overall accretion of coral reef ecosystems. However, despite the fact that sediments are the most abundant form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in coral reef ecosystems and their dissolution may be more sensitive to OA than biogenic calcification, the impacts of OA induced sediment dissolution on coral reef NEC rates and CaCO3 accretion are poorly constrained. Carbon dioxide addition and light attenuation experiments were performed at Heron Island, Australia in an attempt to tease apart the influence of OA and organic metabolism (e.g. respiratory CO2 production) on CaCO3dissolution. Overall, CaCO3 dissolution rates were an order of magnitude more sensitive to elevated CO2 and decreasing seawater aragonite saturation state (ΩAr; 300–420% increase in dissolution per unit decrease in ΩAr) than published reductions in biologically mediated calcification due to OA. Light attenuation experiments led to a 70% reduction in net primary production (NPP), which subsequently induced an increase in daytime (~ 115%) and net diel (~ 375%) CaCO3 dissolution rates. High CO2 and low light acted in synergy to drive a ~ 575% increase in net diel dissolution rates. Importantly, disruptions to the balance of photosynthesis and respiration (P/R) had a significant effect on daytime CaCO3 dissolution, while average water column ΩAr was the main driver of nighttime dissolution rates. A simple model of platform-integrated dissolution rates was developed demonstrating that seasonal changes in photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) can have an important effect on platform integrated CaCO3 sediment dissolution rates. The considerable response of CaCO3 sediment dissolution to elevated CO2 means that much of the response of coral reef communities and ecosystems to OA could be due to increases in CaCO3 sediment and framework dissolution, and not decreases in biogenic calcification.