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Darwin discovered to be right: Eastern Pacific barrier is virtually impassable by coral species
Date:8/27/2012

lucky enough to cross the EPB to Clipperton Island stay there and don't go any farther," Baums explained. "In other words, we find that Porites lobata are not migrating south and east to the Galapagos after making it to Clipperton. We believe this is because these coral are adapted to the warmer conditions that their parents enjoyed to the west of the EPB; for example, near the Line Islands, Fiji, and Samoa. "Coral reefs thrive in shallow water in areas where the annual mean temperature is about 64 degrees Fahrenheit," Baums said. "The eastern Pacific tends to be much cooler; in part, because of a process called upwelling -- a phenomenon that occurs when winds stir up cold, deep ocean water, pulling it to the surface. Clipperton Island may provide a similar-enough environment to the Central Pacific, but the Galapagos area simply may be too cool."

The team's findings about the ability of coral to travel across the marine barrier have important implications for the economic stability of the eastern Pacific, the region's species-conservation efforts and, more broadly, for the impact of climate change on tropical ecosystems. The Galapagos, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador all rely heavily on tourism. Tourism, in turn, relies on healthy reefs that divers can visit and the sale of shellfish and lobster -- species that are maintained, in large part, by the presence of coral communities.

"The take-home message is that coral populations in the eastern Pacific need to be protected," Baums said. "That is, in the event of any large-scale coral crisis, we cannot count on coral populations in the eastern Pacific being replenished by larvae from the west." Baums explained that, especially as the Earth's surface continues to warm, such a crisis to coral reefs is not unlikely. During the El Nio Southern Oscillation events that occurred from 1982 to 1983 and from 1997 to 1998, some of the reefs experienced a 90-percent loss. Although they ultimately were abl
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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Darwin discovered to be right: Eastern Pacific barrier is virtually impassable by coral species
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