Clean water means healthy reefs

Improving the quality of local water boosts the resistance of coral reefs to global climate change, a Florida Institute of Technology ecologist found.

FIT coral reef ecologist Robert van Woesik and his student Dan Wagner showed that when waters in the Florida Keys warmed during the last few summers, corals in cleaner waters with fewer nutrients did well, the Melbourne, Fla., university said Tuesday in a news release. Conversely, corals in dirtier water became sick and bleached.

The study provides concrete evidence of a link between environmental health and the prospects for reefs in a changing world, researchers said.

“Regulating wastewater discharge from the land will help coral reefs resist climate change,” van Woesik said. “In the face of climate change and ocean warming, this study gives managers hope that maintaining high water quality can spare corals.”

The findings were published in Inter-Research’s Marine Ecology Progress Series.