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2022 Hamilton Award: Forecasting coral reef status under climate change

Dr Christopher Cornwall, a Rutherford Discovery Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington, has been presented the Hamilton Award for his research on the impacts of climate change on coral reef growth globally.

Coral reefs are built by calcium carbonate-producing organisms that are highly susceptible to climate change. Ocean warming causes mass bleaching of corals, while ocean acidification reduces the ability of calcifying species to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.

Chris’s work was the first to estimate the effects of climate change on the ability of hundreds of real-world coral reefs to grow. By amalgamating data and modelling, the research quantified the effects of climate change at more than 200 locations globally.

He found that even under low greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, coral reefs will suffer extensive impacts, and will cease to exist as we know them under moderate or higher emissions scenarios.

 Chris Cornwall image

Hamilton Award:
For encouraging scientific research in New Zealand by early career researchers.

For work on the impacts of climate change on coral reef growth globally.