Wildlife Conservation Society study finds seasonal seas save corals with 'tough love'

November 29, 2007

Finally, some good news about the prospects of coral reefs in the age of climate change. According to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, corals may actually survive rising ocean temperatures in 'tough love' seas with wide-ranging temperatures.

Researchers discovered that coral reefs in sites with varying seasonal temperatures are more likely to survive the 'hot pulses' of Climate Change. Conversely, reefs living in environments with stable but higher temperatures are more susceptible to "bleaching," a global phenomenon where beneficial algae are "evicted" by corals, ultimately leading to the reef's demise.

The study, which appears in the latest edition of the journal Ecological Monographs, presents the results of an 8-year study on the reefs of East Africa.

"This finding is a ray of hope in a growing sea of coral bleaching events and threatened marine wildlife," said Dr. Tim McClanahan, Senior Scientist working for WCS' Coral Reef Programs and lead author of the study. "With rising surface temperatures threatening reef systems globally, these sites serve as high diversity refuges for corals trying to survive."

Coral reefs are composed of tiny creatures that live in colonies in mostly tropical and subtropical waters. Corals are home to beneficial algae, which gives reefs their stunning colors. During prolonged, unusually high surface temperatures, many coral species bleach, discharging the algae and leaving the reefs white and sickly.

The study examined temperature variations and coral bleaching events off the coast of East Africa between the years of 1998 and 2005.

The researchers also discovered that the coral reefs in sites with the most temperature variation were in the 'shadow' of islands, protected from the oceanic currents that reduce temperature variations in reef ecosystems. According to the authors of the study, the results suggest that corals in these locations are better adapted to environmental variation. Consequently, they are more likely to survive dramatic increases in temperature.

"The findings are encouraging in the fact that at least some corals and reef locations will survive the warmer surface temperatures to come," added McClanahan. "They also show us where we should direct our conservation efforts the most by giving these areas our highest priority for conservation."

On a broader scale, the Wildlife Conservation Society engages in coral reef conservation on a global scale, with projects on reef systems in Belize, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Madagascar. All of these nations are island environments that may have similar persistence across the global warming crisis.
-end-


Wildlife Conservation Society

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.