Please select your home edition
Edition
Upffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW LEADERBOARD

Coral 'helper' stays robust under ocean acidification

by coralcoe.org.au 25 Jan 09:41 UTC

Scientists say a type of algae crucial to the survival of coral reefs may be able to resist the impacts of ocean acidification caused by climate change.

In a world-first, the team—including researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at The University of Western Australia (Coral CoE at UWA)—found that coralline algae are able to build tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations.

"Coralline algae go through a natural process of calcification, where they build a crustose-like calcium carbonate skeleton," said lead author Dr Christopher Cornwall.

"Skeletons like this provide structure, allowing them to grow, as well as providing a substrate for other organisms such as corals to grow upon," he said.

"We show, for the first time, that while growth of these skeletons is initially susceptible to the effects of ocean acidification caused by increased CO2, over multiple generations they develop resistance."

Coralline algae are vital not only to the survival of coral reefs but many ocean species.

"Crustose coralline algae bind coral reefs together," said Professor McCulloch, Coral CoE Deputy Director, who led the research group. "Without it, coral reefs as we know them today wouldn't exist," he said.

"These species limit erosion in reefs that are often made up of mainly coral fragments, act as a nursery for many marine species, and are the main player in temperate reef formation along the Australian and New Zealand coastlines."

The experiments took more than 18 months to complete. On average, the algae took six generations of about six to eight weeks each to develop resistance to ocean acidification.

The findings of the study are important in understanding how longer-lived species, such as tropical corals, could respond over multiple generations to ocean acidification.

"Coralline algae are a useful model species to test hypotheses about adaptation or acclimation over time as they grow to maturity in six weeks as opposed to several years for many coral species," Dr Cornwall said.

The next step is to test a wider range of coralline algae species.

"This research focused on tropical coralline algae species from northern Australia, so the next step is to study temperate species—like those in southern Australian and New Zealand waters—that grow a lot slower and may not acclimatise to climate change as quickly."

Read the full research here

Related Articles

Big vegetarians of the reef drive fish evolution
More than 6,000 fish species live on coral reefs across the globe A new study reveals the diets of reef fish dictate how fast different species evolve. The breakthrough adds another piece to the fascinating evolutionary puzzle of coral reefs and the fishes that live on them. Posted on 3 Jun
Severe coral loss leaves reefs with larger fish
New research on the Great Barrier Reef finds this comes at a cost New research on the Great Barrier Reef associates severe coral loss with substantial increases in the size of large, long-living herbivorous fish. Posted on 12 May
Can coral reefs 'have it all'?
Some reefs can still thrive with plentiful fish stocks and high fish biodiversity Though coral reefs are in sharp decline across the world, scientists say some reefs can still thrive with plentiful fish stocks, high fish biodiversity, and well-preserved ecosystem functions. Posted on 28 Apr
Heatwaves risky for fish
Some fish are better than others at coping with heatwaves Scientists using sophisticated genetic analysis techniques have found that some fish are better than others at coping with heatwaves. Posted on 27 Mar
Coral disease risk factors revealed
Coral cancers are more common in reefs with fewer fish Researchers have identified key factors that increase the risk of diseases that threaten coral reefs - and their work could one day be used to predict and manage future outbreaks. Posted on 22 Feb
Coral study prompts rethink of scientific theory
World-first study is challenging long-held assumptions about role of sunlight in coral biodiversity The research questions a classic theory that predicts coral biodiversity is highest in the shallowest waters where more energy is available in the form of sunlight. Posted on 6 Nov 2019
Clear goals but murky path to sustainability
International sustainability policies set clear goals for protecting ecosystems As biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate across the globe a new study identifies what is needed to tackle the root causes of the problems. Posted on 6 Nov 2019
New study shows climate change is good investment
Scientists calling on world leaders to urgently accelerate efforts to tackle climate change. Almost every aspect of the environment and ecology is changing in response to global warming. Some of these changes will be profound, if not catastrophic, in the future. Posted on 23 Sep 2019
Actions to save coral reefs
A new, holistic approach to safeguarding coral reefs Scientists say bolder actions to protect coral reefs from the effects of global warming will benefit all ecosystems, including those on land. Posted on 20 Sep 2019
Marine heatwaves a bigger threat to coral reefs
With effects that go beyond coral bleaching New research reveals marine heatwaves are a much bigger threat to coral reefs than previously thought, with effects that go beyond coral bleaching. Posted on 22 Aug 2019
GJW Direct 2020 FOOTERMarine Resources 2019 - FooterVaikobi 2019AUG - Footer 1