Coral reef survival relies on gene science and lower emissions

Steve Woods Photography

Coral reefs across the world are under threat as global warming raises sea temperatures and the oceans become more acidic from absorbing carbon dioxide. While nations work to reduce industrial greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, helping coral to adapt to changing conditions could provide welcome relief for affected reefs.

Warmer oceans can cause coral bleaching. Bleaching happens when the coral, colonies of tiny animals called polyps, lose colored algae living in their bodies and turn completely white. Without the algae, the coral loses its main food source and can die.

Reef-building hard corals that lay down calcium carbonate as a skeleton foundation for reefs are also less productive in acidic conditions. Despite only covering 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, reefs support at least 25 percent of marine species, as well as providing food and economic security for hundreds of millions of people.

In 2021, the United Nations reported a 14 percent loss of corals across the world largely from rising sea temperatures in the previous 13 years. Australia declared mass bleaching events in 2022 across large parts of the Great Barrier Reef, the fourth since 2016. Global satellite data showed higher than usual ocean temperatures between 2015 and 2017 had caused an unprecedented three-year bleaching event in reefs across the planet.

Discovery, 1 August 2022. Full article.

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