Transplanted bleaching-resistant coral retain their resistance to heat

Transplanted Bleaching-Resistant Coral Retain Their Resistance To Heat
Credit: Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Katie Barott of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts & Sciences led a study to see if climate-change resistant corals could grow on battered reefs after transplantation. Her team took corals that survived a severe bleaching event and transplanted them to a new reef where they retained their resilient qualities.

This is excellent news because the looming threat of the climate crisis, acidification, and warming oceans hangs heavy on the world’s coral reefs. Most of them are struggling to adapt to the increasingly inhospitable waters.

Scientists are concerned that corals will fall victim to global warming very soon because mass bleaching events occur more frequently. This new study’s findings offer hope that hardy corals could be the saviors, restoring ruined reefs in the future. Barott and colleagues believe this strategy can buy corals more time as the world battles climate change.

Coral bleaching occurs when the ocean warms to higher-than-normal temperatures, prompting corals to expel the algae they contain, which is their food source. Without sustenance, the coral turns white and eventually dies. The phenomenon has plagued Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Hawaii’s reefs in recent years.

The researchers acquired their hardy corals from a reef in Hawaii that endured a severe bleaching event in 2015. They transplanted samples to two different locations, one with high water flow and another with still waters. They left the corals there for six months.

Transplanted Bleaching-Resistant Coral Retain Their Resistance To Heat

Marine biologist looks at coral growing on mats underwater. (Image: S. Matsuda)

However, even though the corals thrived, they weren’t entirely unaffected. The location did appear to impact the corals’ reproduction rates. A coral’s native site conditions affected its future reproductive fitness.

Andrea D. Steffen, Intelligent Living, 30 June 2021. Full article.

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