Sea sponges likely to weather climate change: New Zealand study

WELLINGTON, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — Some species of sea sponge could be “winners” in global climate change and ocean acidification, New Zealand scientists said Thursday.

Researchers from Victoria University of Wellington examined the physiological responses of four Great Barrier Reef sponge species in response to rising acidification and seawater temperature.

They found that while all four species were sensitive to predicted ocean warming, their sensitivity reduced under ocean acidification for sponges that received their nutrition from symbiotic organisms which get their energy from the sun.

“Our results show that some sponges may be able to deal with future predicted ocean conditions, making them future ‘winners’ under global climate change,” researcher Holly Bennett said in a statement.

The study also found that early-life stages of sponges exhibited greater tolerance to ocean warming than their adult counterparts, which was likely to be crucial to the survival and adaptive capacity of some sponges.

“This finding is novel, with most studies demonstrating early-life stages of other organisms such as corals are more vulnerable than adults,” said Bennett.

“Because of the extent of the Great Barrier Reef system, the research we conducted is highly relevant for global tropical reef ecology,” she said.

“Our research confirms the importance of studying the combined effects of ocean warming and acidification, and demonstrates the importance of examining the response of a species across different life-history stages when determining an organism’s overall response to environmental change.”

Associate Professor James Bell, a lecturer in Marine Biology, said in the statement that the research gave an idea of how some future ecosystems might function.

Xinhua, 29 September 2016. Article.

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