[Coral-List] Reefs must be in Kyoto protocol

martin.pecheux at free.fr martin.pecheux at free.fr
Sun Nov 17 11:20:03 EST 2013

Dear Listers,

My article "Reefs must be counted in Kyoto II protocol" (see below) has been rejected by HR Lasker, editor in chief of Coral Reefs, because "political considerations is not a subject that is appropriate for Coral Reefs"...
Please, if you have any idea, let me know where I can publish it.
The html is available at martin-pecheux.fr (at end of "Previous works").
Of course, comments are wellcome.


Coral reefs must be counted in the Kyoto protocol
M. Pêcheux

Keywords Coral - Reef - Bleaching - Kyoto protocol   – CO2 – Calcification

Abstract Loss of coral cover corresponds to a sink of CO2 and must be counted in the Kyoto II protocol, like change in land use and forestry. Monitoring is sufficiently accurate nowadays. In 2008, coral loss absorbs 102 million tons of CO2. It is highly variable among countries, and I give examples: compared to their 1990 CO2 emission baseline, it is 0.015% for USA, 0.59% for France, 2.64% for Australia, 22.6% for Philippines and 2576% for the Maldives.


First it should be remembered that the 1992 UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) article 2, signed by all countries, states that "The ultimate objective....is to achieve....stabilization of greenhouse gas....within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change". It is already too late for reefs, according to all evidence. Reefs have lost 40% of their coral cover in 2008 (Wilkinson 2008).. It is due in good part to "mass bleaching", due to CO2 increase and global warming (van Oppen et al. 2009 and refs. herein) and/or direct ocean acidification (Pecheux 1993, 1998, 2002, cf. Anthony et al. 2008, see also Barton and Casey 2005). The phenomenon is increasing in frequency and magnitude, and biocalcification will continue to be reduced.
It is known that stop of biocalcification induces an absorption of CO2: which seems counterintuitive. Limestone (CaCO3) precipitation from seawater releases CO2, because of charge balance. To highly simplify: 
Ca++ (calcium) + 2 HCO3- (bicarbonate)  => CaCO3 (limestone) + CO2 (for photosynthesis, and released) + H2O
In fact, it is not the halting of biocalcification which absorbs CO2. It is because it no longer releases CO2. In a steady state Earth carbon cycle, one CO2 dissolves land limestone (the reverse reaction), than two bicarbonates go to rivers and oceans, where biocalcification precipitates CaCO3, releasing the one CO2. So if biocalcification stops, weathering goes on and absorbs CO2, while it is not released by CaCO3 formation. This is a net sink. Seawater alkalinity (HCO3- and CO3= charges principally) increases. Reef decay is an Earth CO2 regulator, but CO2 producing human activity outweighs its positive effect a hundredfold. This process is at decades to thousand years time scale, and is the main Earth climate control by life (martin-pecheux.fr). It is not to be confound with the parallel Earth titration very long term (hundreds of thousand years time scale) net absorption of atmospheric CO2 into CaCO3 by weathering of basic rocks, with about 60 equivalent atmosphere trapped since Earth birth:
CaO + CO2 => CaCO3
CaO does not exist, it is linked to the silicium cycle:
CaSiO3 + CO2 => CaCO3 + SiO2
In fact CaSiO3 doesn't exist neither, but it is a short way to represent basic rocks.
In the Kyoto protocol, the developed countries who must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions account also for the LULUF (land use, land use-change and forestry). In the same way, CO2 sink by coral loss can be counted for each country. The exact number will always be open to some doubt, but actual monitoring data already gives a reasonably good evaluation, probably better than for LULUF.


We aim to find out: 1) how much CaCO3 reefs normally makes; 2) how much reef there is in each country; 3) how much is dead; 4) the chemical equations relating to deposition of CaCO3 and CO2 release.
Global reef CaCO3 production: according to my preferred evaluation of Kinsey and Hopley (1991), from detailed categorisation of the Great Barrier Reef and world extrapolation, reefs precipitate normally around 0.11 GTC/y (gigatonnes carbon [1015gC] per year). Other evaluations are 0.072 GTC/y (Smith, 1978, out of date and from a too simple count), 0.168-0.228 GTC/y (Opdyke and Walker, 1992, with banks and shelves, rather subjective), 0.072 GTC/y (MacKenzie and Morse 1992, rather rough), 0.108 GTC/y (Milliman, 1993, Milliman and Droxler, 1995, with the most extensive synthesis of published data), and 0.12 GTC/y (Kleypass, 1997, excellent, and/but using a quite different approach by modelling environment characteristics). It can be assumed that the margin of error is probably about 10%.
Reefs country distribution: maps and precise count of reef surfaces are given by the World Atlas of Coral Reefs (Spalding et al. 2001, UNEP-WCMC). Its weakness is that it is based mainly on navigational charts, which do not differentiate between high productivity reef fronts and low productivity lagoons. Neither counts the lower productivity 10-30 metres deeper zones. However, the relative proportion of each these zones in each country is not expected to vary too widely. It provides an overall reasonably good objective approximation, at the very worst accurate to maybe 20%. A part of this incertitude can be reduced substantially with some work. We assume that all reefs are produce the same amount, which is an initial assumption.
Loss of coral cover: it is evaluated regularly by the GCRMN (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Wilkinson (ed) 2004, Tab. p 9, 2008, with 372 authors, Tab. p. 11) for 17 distinct world areas. The loss of global reef coral cover in 2008 can be summed as follows: 19% destroyed to 90-100% (i.e. at mid 95% level, corresponding to 18.05% coral cover loss), 15% at critical stage at 50-90% loss (i.e. a mean 70% level, i.e. a 10.5% loss), 20% threatened with a loss of 20-50% loss (i.e. at a 35% level, i.e. 7.0% loss) and 45% at no or low threat, at 0-20% (so I assume 10% level, corresponding to a loss of 4.5%), total = 40.05%. This is a rough estimate, but can be assumed given elimination of errors with statistical variations. This can be done for each of the 17 provinces, to which each country belongs. It is of course a rough calculation, but probably not too far from the actual states of affairs. More investments in reefs monitoring would this data to be confirmed. There are low values of mean coral cover loss in Red Sea, Pacific Islands and Australia-PNG (15%-25%). For these, the count is probably too high as most of the reefs are at Low Threat level, counted here as 10% loss, which may be justified in degraded areas, but not in healthy ones. Monitoring efforts can add to the data, with a No Threat category. Otherwise, there is a cluster of values of 34%-51% loss, outside the Arabic-Persian Gulf which have 81% loss. A new Status of Coral Reefs will be realized soon.
In reality, net deposition is becoming negative since biocalcification has stopped whereas bioerosion and dissolution continue. Frameworks of destroyed reefs are disappearing. The balance between biocalcification and bioerosion is not well known (review in Pecheux 1998), but multiply the magnitude of the phenomenon probably by at least two. This factor is not taken into account at this initial stage, but should be kept in mind in any future works.. Also, reduction of biocalcification in fore reef down to 100 meter depth, of low productivity but on a very large surface, mainly due to large foraminifers (between 4% of reef total CaCO3 production, Langer et al. 1990, to 30% in the data of Kinsey and Hopley 1991), is not taken in account.
CaCO3/CO2 chemical relationship: there is not one mole CO2 absorbed for one mole CaCO3 dissolved (or not deposited), but less by an inverse buffer factor. This is the buffering property of seawater due to charge equilibrium of HCO3-, CO3=, and to a lesser extent to B(OH)4-, OH- and H+. It should be calculated for mean reefs seawaters today. The chemical equations are straight. Here I took those of the synthesis of DOE (1994) (written in Symantec Think Pascal on an Apple Power Book, available at martin-pecheux.fr). I used a yearly mean temperature of 26.965°C (analysis over 50 worldwide reefs from global HadISST1.1 database, 1950-2000, in prep., at request), a salinity of 34.78 and 2380 µM alkalinity (in tropical band, Sundquist and Broecker 1985) and 380 ppm CO2 in 2008 (a few ppm less than the 2008 Mona Loa record of 384.4 ppm to account for the Southern hemisphere). Given these values, at constant pCO2, dissolution of 1.576 mole CaCO3 absorbs one mole CO2. The accuracy is better than 1%, with change by 0.6% when using UNESCO (1987) equations. The buffer factor at constant pH is slightly higher, at 1.831. The choice of the constant pCO2 or the constant pH, as well as the very best choice of CO2 system constants, must arise from a consensus, at last by IPCC advice. I have discussed with Ernie Lewis (cf. Lewis and Wallace 1998), which opts for a more physical meaning (constant pCO2 or rather fCO2, fugacity), whereas I opt for a more biogeochemical meaning of pH (or rather log [OH-]). Both are slightly inexact as pCO2 increases and pH decreases. A more exact calculation can be made with an Earth geochemical 3-box model, or better a multi-box model with more accurate temperature, salinity and alkalinity data at each reef location. Here, for the demonstration, we use the buffer factor at constant pCO2. CO2 from one burned oil litre dissolves 10 kg of corals today in this case, and the human emission of 8.769 GTC/year in 2008 (UNSD) can dissolve 126 times the reefs production.


The CO2 sink of each country reefs is equal to: GRP x %S x %L / BF, with GRP, global reef production=0.11 GTC/y, %S, country’s reef surface/total reef surface = 284 803 km2, %L, mean loss of coral cover, BF, Buffer Factor at constant pCO2 for mean reef seawater = 1.576.
Sink of CO2 by coral cover loss by each country divided by the country’s 1990 CO2 emissions gives its percentage in Kyoto protocol term. Here I give some examples (Table 1). Reefs decay will continue. I don't know when it will stabilise, but, as an indication, here is also the potential CO2 absorption if/when all reef biocalcification disappears. It is terrifying that 51.7%±4.0% of reef specialists think that the effects of mass bleaching on reefs will be catastrophic or worst (opinion poll on coral-list, full results the 18/12/2011, available at coral.aoml.noaa.gov). In the Perpignan Reef Symposium, there was a joke about mass bleaching going around: "Soon, there will be no more reef biologists, only geologists".


It is absolutely without doubt that reef catastrophic decay absorbs and will absorb CO2. The method given here to calculate each country’s contribution is the best one, which is only possible with intensive and objective evaluation of the GCRMN by many reef scientists. It has of course approximations but certainly not caveats. Let's say that the summing imprecision might be round 25%, and with statistics, one error cancels the other. And it can be quickly well ameliorated. In any case, keeping in mind bioerosion, the estimate is a minimum.
Then, a tortuous consideration on a legal point, as T. Goreau warns me. It should be noted that the 1992 UNFCCC speaks of "anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks" to be taken into account, added at the last minute at request of USA. Whether "anthropogenic" applies to only emissions or both emissions and removals is subject to interpretation. One can argue that reefs are "natural emissions by sources which halt". Much can be said on such "sex of angel" discussion, but reefs are both a source and a sink of CO2, depending on the part and time scale of the carbon cycle considered; mass bleaching is really “anthropogenic” since it is due to an increase of CO2 ; in case of controversy, it belongs by treaty to the expertise of IPCC to decide if reef calcification decay is an emission halt by source or a removal by sink. It means in part to me. Of course death of reefs is scientifically a sink.
In any case, in my opinion and for any conscious living being, it will be impossible to count forestry and land use changes and discard reefs. There is indeed, seemingly, far better evaluations of CO2 reef mass balance than for tropical rain forests, of trees plantations or land use change. It is easier in transects to see if a coral is present at a point than to know how much a tree is photosynthesising or weight its carbon pool in roots. Moreover, if trees are the cheapest, safest and happiest way of carbon sequestration, forestry counts are by far less sure in the long term than coral reefs decay. What should be done with wood after an hundred years? If you burn it, the balance is reset to zero, if you built a house with it, it won’t last thousands of years, if you let it at ground, bacteria, fungi and insects will decompose it and release the CO2. A solution is to wet it, but for centuries? The only solution is to drop it into deep sea (cf. Chapter 6.2.3 of IPCC 2005), for long conservation, as archaeological records prove.. There is a very small risk of methanizing bacteria, but that would be a huge catastrophe. So you have to make charcoal, totally inert, even if it is less efficient. But then, you can just stock it at land. So you create piles of charcoal to absorb CO2 from burning mine coal… So burns wood instead of coal. At contrast, when a coral is dead, it is dead, and it takes several years for a new settlement and growth. Meanwhile the CO2 absorption takes place.
The most controversial point is the article 3.3 of the Kyoto protocol which speak of “direct human induced” effects. That mass bleaching is indeed due to human activity through CO2 emissions and global warming or rather ocean acidification is without doubt. The same holds for local pollution, but it is not the case of cyclones and Acanthaster outbreaks. It might be difficult to separate these effects. A way to circumvent this problem can be to take in account that regular perturbations lower coral cover, and thus to lower the GRP by let’s say 10%, to be determined by consensus.
>From an institutional point of view, countries like France or Australia may accomplish their Kyoto II commitments at a few percent with the loss of its reef biotope. Cruel compensation.
>From a financial point of view, it is planned that forestry will be took in account in the Clean Development Mechanism, paying each ton of CO2 at market price. This might be the case also for reefs decay, but only if there is management project aims to destroy reefs (at about 0.13 $/destroyed m2)! But it would be justice for countries like Maldives that CO2 emitters pay for all their reefs disappearance, according to the principle "pollueur payeur".  At current (irrelevantly low) price of 5$ per ton CO2 on EU market, Maldives should receive 20 million $ per year. There would be a lot of pressure on evaluation teams if such a compensation were to be in place, but they have already the objective experiences.
>From a sociological point of view, it will at leasthighlight to people and deciders the role of reefs, and their poor state... Awareness will grow. "Cars or corals, we must choose". 
>From a political point of view, speaking of reef decay in term of metric ton of CO2 means that the importance of their role can be shown. Coral reefs are important because around half of the nation’s possesses them (Spalding et al., 2001), in which the main developed ones as USA (1.33% of the world reefs, nation rank 16th), Japan (1.02%), France (6.10% with colonies in the three oceans, 4th), United Kingdom (1.94%, 12th), Australia (17.22%, 2nd), some important developing ones as China (0.53%), India (2.04%, 10th), Brazil (0.42%), huge in Indonesia (17.95%, the 1st), and in Philippines (8.81%, 3rd), also in Saudi Arabia (2.34%, 8th), and particularly in 43 nations classified as "island" or "atoll states", in danger for their shore protection, fisheries and tourism industries. Loss of biodiversity and long-term regulation of carbon cycle is a concern for everyone. It is perhaps important as some countries like US and Saudi Arabia are the greatest opponents to the necessary strong and urgent CO2 mitigation, and they will see better the choice between CO2 emissions and their own reefs. Hopefully there will be some move.
It will take, I am not naïve, some times that reefs decay is indeed taken in account in Kyoto II protocol, and there will be predicable resistances. But even if it is not rapidly formally accepted, it provides a better perspective of reef status.

Acknowledgment Thanks to Clive Wilkinson for his advice. I am grateful to Julia Broomhead which checks the English. This work was supported by French AAH n°2504010.


Anthony KRN, Kline DI, Diaz-Pulido G, Hoegh-Guldberg Ove (2008) Ocean acidification causes bleaching and productivity loss in coral reef builders. Proc Nat Acad US 105:17442-17446
Barton AD, Casey KS (2005) Climatological context to large-scale coral bleaching. Coral Reefs 24:536-554.
DOE (1994) Handbook of methods for the analysis of the various parameters of the carbon dioxide system of sea water; version 2. Dickson AG, Goyet C (eds) ORNL/CDIAC-74, US Dept of Energy, pp. 36
IPCC (2005) Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage, Metz B, Davidson O, de Coninck H, Loos L (eds.) Cambridge University Press, pp. 431 Available from www..ipcc.ch
Langer MR, Silk MT, Lipps JH (1997) Global ocean carbonate and carbon dioxide production: the role of reef Foraminifera. J Foram Res 27:271-277
Lewis E, Wallace DWR (1998) Program development for CO2 system calculations.. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US DOE, Oak Ridge TN, ORNL/CDIAC-105. See cdiac.ornl.gov/oceans/CO2rprt.html#aboutco2sys, up-to-date co2sys available at ftp://cdiac.ornl.gov/pub/co2sys.
Kinsey DW, Hopley D (1991) The significance of coral reefs as global carbon sinks - response to greenhouse. Paleogeogr Paleoclim Paleoecol 89:363-377
Kleypass JA (1997) Modelled estimates of global reef habitat and carbonate production since the last glacial maximum. Paleoceanogr 13:533-545
MacKenzie FT, Morse JW (1992) Sedimentary carbonate trough Phanerozoic time.. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 56:3281-3295
Milliman JD (1993) Production and accumulation of calcium carbonate in the ocean: budget of a nonsteady state. Global Biogeochem Cycles 7:927-957
Milliman JD, Droxler AW (1995) Neritic and pelagic sedimentation in the marine environment: ignorance is not bliss. Geol Rundsch 85:496-504
Opdyke BN, Walker JCG (1992) Return to the coral reef hypothesis: basin to shelf partitioning of CaCO3 and its effect on atmospheric CO2. Geology 20:733-736
Pêcheux M (1993) Is present coral reef mass bleaching due to CO2 rise? Proceeding of the 7th International Symposium on Biomineralization, Allemand D, Cuif JP (eds), 17-20th November 1993, Monaco, 174. Available at martin-pecheux.fr or www.reefbase.org
Pêcheux M (1998) Review on coral reef bleaching. Atoll Res Bull. Edilivre, Saint-Denis, France, printed in 2013, pp. 292. Available at martin-pecheux.fr or www.reefbase.org
Pêcheux M (2002) CO2 increase a direct cause of coral reef bleaching? Mar Life 12:63-68
Smith SV (1978) Coral-reef area and the contributions of reefs to processes and resources of the world's oceans. Nature 273:225-226
Spalding M, Ravilious C, Green E (2001) World Atlas of Coral Reefs. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Univ. California Press pp. 424. No longer available from database (Amazon at minimum 81.31€)
Sundquist ET, Broecker WS (eds) (1985) The carbon cycle and atmospheric CO2 natural variation Archean to present. Amer Geophys Union, Geophys Monogr, 32:1-627
UNESCO (1987) Thermodynamics of the carbon dioxide system in seawater. UNESCO Tech Pap Mar Sci 51:1-55
UNSD: United Nations Statistics Division, Millennium Development Goals indicators. Carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) thousand metric tonnes of CO2 (collected by CDIAC). Available at mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/SeriesDetail.aspx?srid=749&crid= or cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_coun.html
Van Oppen MJH, Lough JM (eds) (2009) Coral bleaching. Patterns, process, causes and consequences. Ecol Studies 205 pp. 178
Wilkinson CR (ed) (2004) Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2004. Aust Inst Mar Sci, Townsville, Australia, 301 pp. Available at www.reefbase.org
Wilkinson CR (ed) (2008) Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008. Aust Inst Mar Sci, Townsville, Australia, 296 pp. Available at www.reefbase.org

Table 1. Example for six countries of calculation of the CO2 sink by coral decay, compared with their CO2 emissions.

Country	Reef	           Mean	Potential	2008	1990 CO2	2008 CO2	        2008 CO2 sink
	   surface	coral	CO2 sink	CO2 sink       emissionsc	       emissionsc	      /1990 emission
	(km2)a	lossb	         (MtC/y)		(MtC/y)	(MtC/y)	(MtC/y)	                /2008 emission

USAd	3141	-	0.778	0.201	1 330.739	1489.367	- 0.015%	
  Hawaii	1180	15.9%	0.298	0.047			        - 0.013%
  Johnston	220	14.9%	0.054	0.008
  US Samoa	220	14.9%	0.054	0.008
  North Mariana	<50	14.9%	0.012	0.002
  Guam	220	24.75%	0.054	0.027
  Florida	1250	35.5%	0.306	0.109
  Texas	1.4	-	-	-

France	17368	-	3.325	0.641	1       08.826	102.814	- 0.589%
  Clippertone	1.2	-	-	-			- 0.623%
  Society Islandsf	"6000"	14.9%	1.470	0.219
  Wallis (& Futuna)	411	17.45%?	0.101	0.018
  New Caledoniaf	5980	17.45%	1.466	0.256
  Réunion	<50	41.2%	0.012	0.005
  Mayotte	570	41.2%?	0.140	0.058
  Tromeling	2h	-	-	-
  Eparses Islandsi	165h	42.05%j	0.100	0.042
  Martinique	240	64.65%	0.146	0.094
  Guadeloupe	250	64.65%	0.152	0.098

Australia	48 960	17.25%	11.999	2.070	78.363	108.878	- 2.642%
							        - 1.901%

Saudi Arabia	6 660	-	1.632	0.375	58.651	118.243	-1.611%
  Arabic Gulf	531k	81.05%	0.130	0.105			- 0.795%
  Red Sea	6129k	18.3%	1.502	0.275

Philippines	25 060	44.7%	6.141	2.745	12.145	22.679	- 22.604%
						        	- 12.046%

Maldives	8 920	49.5%	2.186	1.082	0.042	0.251	- 2576%
						        	- 431%

Notes. a. Spalding et al., 2001. b. Wilkinson (ed.), 2008. c. UNSD. d. Without US Virgins Island, Puerto Rico and Freely Associated States (Marshall, Palau, North Micronesia) of debated status. e. Claimed by Mexico. f. Under process of independence. g. Claimed by Mauritius. h. Personal evaluation from navigational maps. i. In part claimed by Madagascar. j. Mean of quite similar East Africa and South East Indian Ocean values. k. Relative proportion of Red Sea and Arabic Gulf reefs is approximate.

Dr Martin Pecheux
IPCC 2007 member (Nobel Peace Prize), 2014, soon IPBES
Institut des Foraminifères Symbiotiques
16, rue de la Fontaine de l'Espérance
92160 Antony, France
Email : martin.pecheux at free.fr
Web : martin-pecheux.fr
Phone : +33 (0)1 40 96 01 99

L'homme descend du singe, la preuve, c'est qu'il croit en dieu.
Human's origin is monkey, proof the belief in god.
Nosotros descendemos de los monos, prueba se cree en dios.
Der Mensch stammt vom Affen ab, Beweis ist dass er an Gott glaubt.

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