Palumbi's team studied corals growing in shallow lagoons that face intense heat during noontime summer low tides. The team knew these corals were resistant to brief heating but were surprised to find that the corals survived five to six days of high water temperatures. Baking in the tropical summer sun at low tide for 4 to 6 hours a day seems to have better prepared these corals for global warming temperatures.
"When we tested these corals against high temperatures for extended periods of time, they showed all the evidence of having higher resilience," Palumbi said. "It looks like the corals have adapted or acclimated to that stress and have a better chance of resisting high global warming temperatures." How long this resilience will last, and whether all corals can do this, are remaining questions.
Does size matter for marine reserves?
A major response to climate change is to protect reefs from other human-caused stresses such as overfishing. And as a result, a large number of Marine Protected Areas have been implemented in the Pacific. Some are the size of a football field. Some are the size of California. Is bigger better?
To determine how much difference the size of a protected area might make, Palumbi analyzed data from a set of small reserves in Fiji, from the Phoenix Islands and from the Papahanaumokuakea Reserve in Hawaii, the largest marine reserve in the world. All three areas are set aside by government agencies.
The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument covers 360,000 square kilometers (139,000 square miles) in Northwest Hawaii and is a "no-take" reserve, which means nothing may be removed, including fish.
The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which lies in the central Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Fiji, is over 408,000 square kilometers (158,000 square m
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|