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Sweden's only coral reef at risk of dying
Date:10/25/2012

coral reefs in Norwegian waters. However, a study recently published in the research journal Coral Reefs, shows that the Scken reef is isolated from the other reefs in the northeast Skagerrak.

By using genetic markers, researchers have estimated the degree of gene flow between the reefs in Skagerrak. The results show that the genetic distance between the Scken reef and four other reefs in the northeast Skagerrak is one of the largest on both sides of the Atlantic. The genetic diversity on the Scken reef is also much lower than observed in any other reef of this type.

"This means that it is highly unlikely that the Scken reef will recover naturally," says Mikael Dahl, who led the study. "Instead, interventions are needed in order to ensure the survival of the reef."

The importance of starting restoration

On the basis of these results, researchers from the University of Gothenburg have started a restoration project where healthy corals from nearby reefs in Norway are being removed and placed on the Scken reef after being genetically characterised. The researchers hope that these corals will survive the process of being transferred, and that they will be able to help with the re-establishment of the reef, through both asexual and sexual reproduction.

The Scken reef is spread across an area of 5,000 m, but today there is only living coral in an area of around 300-500 m. Further results from the study show that individual specimens of Lophelia pertusa corals may be several thousands of years old, and in the Norwegian coral reef some of the individuals have been estimated to be somewhat 6,200 years old. But many are probably older.

"In other words, it's not only the reefs themselves that are extremely old, but it's also actually the same individuals that have been situated there since soon after the withdrawal of the inland ice. These individual corals have been living there in the deep darkness since long be
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Contact: Mikael Dahl
mikael.dahl@bioenv.gu.se
46-703-217-371
University of Gothenburg
Source:Eurekalert

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