Ocean Warming Slows Coral Growth in the Central Red Sea

N. E. Cantin, A. L. Cohen, K. B. Karnauskas, A. M. Tarrant, D. C. McCorkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

334 Scopus citations


Sea surface temperature (SST) across much of the tropics has increased by 0.4° to 1°C since the mid-1970s. A parallel increase in the frequency and extent of coral bleaching and mortality has fueled concern that climate change poses a major threat to the survival of coral reef ecosystems worldwide. Here we show that steadily rising SSTs, not ocean acidification, are already driving dramatic changes in the growth of an important reef-building coral in the central Red Sea. Three-dimensional computed tomography analyses of the massive coral Diploastrea heliopora reveal that skeletal growth of apparently healthy colonies has declined by 30% since 1998. The same corals responded to a short-lived warm event in 1941/1942, but recovered within 3 years as the ocean cooled. Combining our data with climate model simulations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we predict that should the current warming trend continue, this coral could cease growing altogether by 2070.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-325
Number of pages4
Issue number5989
StatePublished - Jul 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): USA 00002/KSA 00011
Acknowledgements: The authors thank G. P. Lohmann, C. Saenger, M. X. Weber, and A. Venti for their assistance with fieldwork. A. Al Suwailem; Y. Kattan; H. Al Jahdali; W. Moazen; Nageeb from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); and E. Mason, R. Maravilla, and the staff at Dream Divers provided logistical support in Saudi Arabia. D. Ketten and J. Arruda provided invaluable technical support and advice for the CAT scanning of our coral cores. Comments from D. Oppo and two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the original manuscript. This research was funded by award no. USA 00002/KSA 00011 from KAUST to A.L.C. and D.C.M.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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