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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Resilient Reefs?

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, May 4, 2014/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment, climate change

Can corals become resilient in the face of changing ocean environments? Surprising research results from Stanford University show that some reef species are demonstrating an unexpected level of "resiliency" to increased ocean temperatures and this perhaps offers hope.

According to the Stanford announcement:

"Biologist Steve Palumbi and his team have shown that some corals can adjust their internal functions to tolerate hot water 50 times faster than they would adapt through evolutionary change alone." He continued, "The temperature of coral reefs is variable, so it stands to reason that corals should have some capacity to respond to different heat levels. Our study shows they can, and it may help them in the future as the ocean warms."


Brain Corals & Parrotfish, Whitsunday Islands NP, Australia  (credit: Chris Holly)

Coral reefs provide ecological services as fish nurseries, for coastal protection from storms, and essential habitat for numerous marine animals. They also provide major economic benefits from tourism and commercial fishing so the issue of their resilience in the face of rising ocean temperatures is very important.

The results of the Stanford research are encouraging. However, threats from siltation by soil and agricultural runoff, overfishing, ocean acidification, and in appropriate coastal developments add additional stresses that can push corals beyond their capacity to be survive and regenerate. Additional research data will need to be generated from other locations to see if the results match what the Stanford biologists has demonstrated.

This is very important work, I'm not sure how it will turn out, and I hope the biologists are proven correct in their observations of reef resiliency.

WHB
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