Climatic and tectonic drivers shaped the tropical distribution of coral reefs
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/4561
EDITED VERSION: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-30793-8
UNESCO SUBJECT: 2506 Geología
DOCUMENT TYPE: article
Today, warm-water coral reefs are limited to tropical-to-subtropical latitudes. These diverse ecosystems extended further poleward in the geological past, but the mechanisms driving these past distributions remain uncertain. Here, we test the role of climate and palaeogeography in shaping the distribution of coral reefs over geological timescales. To do so, we combine habitat suitability modelling, Earth System modelling and the ~247-million-year geological record of scleractinian coral reefs. A broader latitudinal distribution of climatically suitable habitat persisted throughout much of the Mesozoic–early Paleogene due to an expanded tropical belt and more equable distribution of shallow marine substrate. The earliest Cretaceous might be an exception, with reduced shallow marine substrate during a ‘cold-snap’ interval. Climatically suitable habitat area became increasingly skewed towards the tropics from the late Paleogene, likely steepening the latitudinal biodiversity gradient of reef-associated taxa. This was driven by global cooling and increases in tropical shallow marine substrate resulting from the tectonic evolution of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Although our results suggest global warming might permit long-term poleward range expansions, coral reef ecosystems are unlikely to keep pace with the rapid rate of anthropogenic climate change.
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