Indo-Pacific Coral More Resilient

New Study Shows Indo-Pacific Corals Are More Resilient To Warming Waters.
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New Study Shows Indo-Pacific Corals Are More Resilient To Warming Waters. Source: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A New Study from Penn State Shows Indo-Pacific Corals are More Resilient to Warming Waters

An international team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University has found that Indo-Pacific Coral (corals in the Indian and Pacific Oceans) are more resilient to climate change compared to corals found in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Coral Is Important and Under Threat

When discussing marine ecosystem conservation, it’s important not to leave out coral reefs. They are the homes for thousands of species, underwater plants, fish, and invertebrates. 

These unique creatures and the habitats they facilitate for other organisms are under significant threat due to anthropogenic climate change, as they are uniquely susceptible to changes in the temperature of the water they inhabit. 

Coral bleaching, as it is called, is a major problem for large and small coral reefs around the world. When water temperatures rise too high, corals expel the algae in their tissues. These algae provide the coral with food and nutrients, so when they are expelled, the coral turns white and becomes stressed. If the water temperature does not return to normal, the coral will eventually die.

Bleaching events can be caused by a number of factors, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing. Climate change is the most serious threat to coral reefs, causing the ocean to warm at an alarming rate. Bleaching is a serious problem because it can lead to the death of entire coral reefs, which are important ecosystems providing food and shelter for a wide variety of marine life. They also protect coastlines from erosion.

In some cases, coral reefs can recover from bleaching events. However, it is rare for reefs to recover to their pre-damage levels. This is because bleaching can damage the coral’s DNA, making it more susceptible to future bleaching events.

However, according to a new study composed by an international team of researchers out of Pennsylvania State University, some species of coral could be less affected by climate change than others, namely Indo-Pacific corals. 

See also: New Program In Hawaii Aims To Restore 193 Kilometers Of Coral Reefs.

How Does Indo-Pacific Coral Differ?

The major thing to understand about coral reefs is that they are an organism in of themselves, but they have and facilitate symbiotic relationships with other organisms living around them. 

The foundational relationship in coral reefs is with the coral and the algae that cover them. According to the study, they have found five new algae species covering these Indo-Pacific coral reefs, potentially mitigating the damage warming temperatures incur onto coral reefs. 

This algae is specific to coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. The major difference between the algae and coral in the Atlantic Ocean and the coral and algae in the Indo-Pacific region is what kind of algae attaches itself to which coral. 

According to the study, some algae are what the researchers call “specialists,” meaning they only attach themselves to specific kinds of corals. This means that only certain corals are covered by the algae protecting them from warming temperatures. 

In contrast, in the Indo-Pacific coral found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, the algae covering the coral are “generalists,” meaning they cover various different kinds of coral. The authors took samples from various countries with coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas. 

In the study, the authors said, “The existence of widespread species with the capacity to endure diverse, or variable, environments [is] important to ecological and genetic research and conservation. Such ‘ecological generalists’ are likelier to have key adaptations that allow them to better tolerate the physiological challenges of rapid climate change.” 

New Information Opens New Possibilities

The study also shows that as climate change progresses and presents larger challenges for our world, generalists such as these Indo-Pacific corals will become the more dominant form of algae-covering corals due to their ability to adapt better to warmer waters. 

This presents an opportunity for conservationists as they are now better equipped to introduce generalist algae to coral reefs that need protection. However, there is still much work to be done, as the information regarding algae and corals is still sparse. 

But with continued research, we could be presented with the tools needed to bring back these unique organisms and ecosystems from the brink of extinction. 

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