REEForm Thematic Programme 4: Models of reef carbonate production

The growth and development of coral reefs and reef sedimentary landforms, which are composed predominantly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), is almost entirely dependent upon ecological processes. This opens the possibility to link dynamical processes in the ecology of the system with dynamical processes in the sedimentology. Corals typically represent the primary constructional components and are therefore a key component to model. Their population dynamics can be represented by various simplifications in assumptions, i.e. as functional groups, guilds or just as generalized organisms that interact with the sedimentary system. Depending on the level of simplification, biological dynamics, such as competition or differential adaptations, can be explicitly taken into account. Several different reef-builders can be modelled. A hierarchy of models of increasing complexity can be developed in which different reef builders are treated by the same update rules with different parameters, or by completely different and unique update rules. Linked to the life-dynamics is the death-dynamics, i.e. the transfer of the organisms’ skeletons into the sedimentary system. This can also be modelled in a hierarchy of complexity, giving increasingly realistic estimates of the sedimentary process regime.

REEForms research activities under this Thematic Programme will thus focus on addressing the following:

  • The exploration of reef framework carbonate budget studies from a theoretical viewpoint that links reef organism life-dynamics with sedimentary dynamics.
  • The establishment of a hierarchy of models from one-dimensional (pure production rates) to spatially explicit simulations of life and sedimentary dynamics on reefs and reef islands, linking estimates of contemporary sediment production to records of recent morphodynamic change.

These will help us to:

  • Provide a strong theoretical underpinning to the exploration of reef carbonate production across gradients of both natural and anthropogenic environmental change.
  • Quantify and model how sediment production and supply to reef islands changes through time as islands evolve.
  • Develop the capability to fore- and hindcast major environmental factors that can trigger changes in sediment and framework carbonate production.