Navigation Links
Global warming threat to coral reefs: Can some species adapt?

Coral reefs are among the ecosystems most severely threatened by global warming, but hopeful new evidence has emerged that some coral species may be able to adapt to warmer oceans.

In a study published in the journal PLoS One, an international team of researchers reports that coral populations which unexpectedly survived a massive bleaching event in 2010 in South-East Asian waters had previously experienced severe bleaching during an event in 1998.

The team analysed what happened at three sites during the 2010 event and found that in Indonesia, corals responded to higher sea temperatures in a typical way, with fast-growing branching species - such as staghorn corals suffering severe die-offs. But at sites monitored in Singapore and Malaysia, the usual trend was reversed: normally susceptible colonies of fast-growing Acropora corals appeared healthy and fully pigmented, while most colonies of massive coral were severely bleached.

"Mass coral-bleaching events, caused by a breakdown in the relationship between the coral animals and their symbiotic algae, are strongly correlated with unusually high sea temperatures and have led to widespread reef degradation in recent decades," notes lead author Dr James Guest, currently a joint research fellow at the UNSW Centre for Marine Bio-innovation and the Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University..

"The severity of these events varies considerably but until now we've seen one consistent trend: certain types of coral tend to be more resistant to bleaching than others. This has led to the prediction that hardier, slow-growing massive species will replace less hardy, fast-growing branching species on reefs in the future.

"But during the 2010 event the normal hierarchy of species susceptibility was reversed in some places. Corals at our Indonesian study site in Pulau Weh, Sumatra, followed the usual pattern, with around 90% of colonies of fast-growing species dying. But the pattern was the opposite at study sites in Singapore and Malaysia, even though sea-temperature data showed that the magnitude of thermal stress was similar at all sites.

"This suggests that the thermal history of these sites may have played an important role in determining the bleaching severity in 2010.

"When we looked at archived sea-surface temperature data and past bleaching records we found that the locations that had a reversed hierarchy of susceptibility and less severe bleaching in 2010 also bleached during 1998. In contrast, the site that had a normal bleaching hierarchy and severe bleaching did not bleach in 1998.

"The most parsimonious explanation, therefore, is that coral populations that bleached during the last major warming event in 1998 have adapted and/or acclimatised to thermal stress. This is controversial because many scientists believe that corals have exhausted their capacity to adapt to thermal stress."

While these results are encouraging, Dr Guest says, it does not necessarily mean that the global threat to reefs has lessened. There are likely to be limits to thermal adaptation and acclimatisation, and there may be other costs to the corals, such as reduced growth and reproductive health. As well, reefs continue to be threatened by overfishing, pollution, diseases and ocean acidification.

"The results of the present study do indicate, however, that the effects of coral bleaching will not be as uniform as previously thought and fast-growing branching taxa such as Acropora and Pocillopora are likely to persist in some locations despite increases in the frequency of thermal stress events."


Contact: Bob Beale
University of New South Wales

Related biology news :

1. EU-funded study underlines importance of Congo Basin for global climate and biodiversity
2. Novo Nordisk and BGI establish global collaboration framework
3. Global Carbon Project launches UK office
4. World nourishment at risk of being diminished: Wild cereals threatened by global warming
5. Create effective new global environmental agency, ministers urged
6. UVic researchers among presenters at global science conference
7. New web tool to improve accuracy of global land cover maps
8. Global extinction: Gradual doom as bad as abrupt
9. Verified Clinical Trials System Implemented at Leading Global Contract Research Organization to Improve Participant Safety and Data Integity
10. Global experts question claims about jellyfish populations
11. Biodiversity enhances ecosystems global drylands -- Ben-Gurion U researchers
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Global warming threat to coral reefs: Can some species adapt?
(Date:11/18/2015)... November 18, 2015 --> ... a new market report titled  Gesture Recognition Market - ... 2015 - 2021. According to the report, the global gesture recognition ... anticipated to reach US$29.1 bn by 2021, at a ... North America dominated the global gesture ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today ... its Board of Directors. --> ... recently retiring from the partnership at TPG Capital, one ... with over $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded and ... all the TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... , Nov. 12, 2015  A golden retriever ... Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new lead ... Children,s Hospital, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard ... Brazil . Cell, pinpoints ... dogs "escape" the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s lab ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... the request of IIROC on behalf of the Toronto ... this news release there are no corporate developments that ... price. --> --> ... --> . --> Aeterna Zentaris ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Muncie, IN (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... its newest Special Interest Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to ... in the last few years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) ... remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation (or 1,100,000 pre-share consolidation) ... B Warrants") subject to the previously disclosed November ... 2015, which will result in the issuance of ... the issuance of such shares, there will be ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Creation Technologies would ... named to Deloitte's 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the fastest growing companies ... FDA-cleared, Class II medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth movement by as ...
Breaking Biology Technology: