Long-term isolation and local adaptation in Palau’s Nikko Bay help corals thrive in acidic waters

The reefs in Palau’s Nikko Bay live in seawater with low pH that is similar to conditions predicted for 2100 because of ocean acidification. Nevertheless, the reefs at Nikko Bay have high coral cover and high diversity. We hypothesize that the low-pH environment in Nikko Bay is caused by low flushing rates, which causes long-term isolation and local adaptation. To test this hypothesis, we modeled the water circulation in and around Nikko Bay. Model results show that average residence time is 71 d, which is ten times the residence time on fore-reef habitats. The long residence time restricts the exchange of coral larvae in the bay with adjacent reefs, allowing persistent selection for tolerant traits and local adaptation. The corals in Nikko Bay are also more susceptible to local pollution because the waters are poorly flushed. Therefore, local management must focus on minimizing human impacts such as dredging, overfishing and pollution in the bay, which would compromise the condition of the corals that have already adapted to low-pH conditions.

Golbuu Y., Gouezo M., Kurihara H., Rehm L. & Wolanski E., in press. Long-term isolation and local adaptation in Palau’s Nikko Bay help corals thrive in acidic waters. Coral Reefs. Article (subscription required).

1 Response to “Long-term isolation and local adaptation in Palau’s Nikko Bay help corals thrive in acidic waters”


  1. 1 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 8 August 2016 at 16:02

    It is unfortunate that the terminology used in the title of this paper is misleading. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7″. Despite the process of ocean acidification, the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, the “acid” or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents or in purposeful perturbation experiments. See: https://news-oceanacidification-icc.org/2015/08/26/a-plea-to-ocean-acidification-scientists/


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