Growth-rate influences on coral climate proxies tested by a multiple colony culture experiment

Erika Hayashi, Atsushi Suzuki, Takashi Nakamura, Akihiro Iwase, Toyoho Ishimura, Akira Iguchi, Kazuhiko Sakai, Takashi Okai, Mayuri Inoue, Daisuke Araoka, Shohei Murayama, Hodaka Kawahata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


As application of coral-based climate reconstruction has become more frequent at tropical sites, increased attention is being paid to the potential ambiguities of coral thermometers that are intrinsic to the biomineralisation process, including the so-called vital effect, the growth-rate-related kinetic effect, and the [CO32-] effect. Here we studied how the growth rate influenced the skeletal oxygen and carbon isotope ratios (δ18O and δ13C) and the Sr/Ca ratio in a common-garden experiment involving the long-term culture of Porites australiensis clone colonies. Comparison of the seasonal minimum δ18O values during summer showed a negligible influence of the large intercolony variation in growth rate (2-10mmyr-1) on δ18O variation, but δ18O was relatively sensitive to temporary intracolony growth-rate changes related to colony health. In contrast, the Sr/Ca ratio was robust against both inter- and intracolony growth-rate variation. We found a positive shift in δ13C in slower growing corals, which we attributed to the kinetic behaviour of the calcification reaction. The seasonal fluctuation in δ13C corresponded not to changes in light intensity nor to δ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon in seawater, but to photosynthetic efficiency as measured by pulse-amplitude photometry. These findings support the inference that coral skeletal Sr/Ca and δ18O in a long-lived colony can function as a palaeoclimate archive by recording signals of clonal growth. We also propose practical guidelines for the proper interpretation of coral records.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-206
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - Jan 5 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon isotope ratio
  • Coral skeleton
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Oxygen isotope ratio
  • Sr/Ca ratio
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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