Coral Reefs Resistant to Climate Change

Coral off the coast of South Caicos.  Photo by Charlie Gaines

Coral off the coast of South Caicos. Photo by Charlie Gaines

Reef corals are extremely sensitive to temperature changes, especially heat, but some populations have recently been identified as resistant to climate change.  

Stephen Palumbi and his colleagues from the Department of Biology at Stanford University conducted research on reef corals to determine the mechanisms of temperature tolerance amongst different species.  In order to determine these mechanisms, they transplanted corals between reef sites experiencing different temperatures, and tested physiological and gene expression profiles.  The team of researchers discovered that some corals can adjust their internal temperatures to tolerate hot water 50 times faster then they would naturally adapt through evolutionary change.

Corals play an extremely important role in many nation’s societies.  Over one billion people depend on healthy corals to foster fish that these societies rely on.  Some of the most rich spots for fish biodiversity are found in areas filled with coral reefs.  Many fish go through their juvenile stage around coral reefs and depend on them for food and shelter.  Without healthy reefs, fish populations would not thrive and biodiversity would plummet.

It is very important to learn new information about species like this because our planet is being impacted by climate change.  It is good to know that such important species like coral reefs are coming up with ways to adapt to the changing environments around them.

To read more about this study click here.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen R. Palumbi, Daniel J. Barshis, Nikki Traylor-Knowles, and Rachael A. Bay. Mechanisms of Reef Coral Resistance to Future Climate Change.Science, 24 April 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1251336

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