coral reef tagged posts

Teaching coral to toughen up could help reefs survive climate change

Diver photographing a coral reef

As the world’s oceans continue to warm, coral reefs are struggling to survive. In recent years large swaths of some of the world’s biggest and best known reefs have died, and a recent UN report maintains that the reefs could “cease to exist as functioning coral reef ecosystems by the end of this century” unless steps are taking to protect them.

But scientists are stepping in to help. From floating chemical “sunscreens” to reef-patrolling robots, they’re developing all sorts of strategies and devices to help coral. In one of the most promising approaches, researchers are looking for ways to accelerate the pace at which corals adapt to warmer seas — so they can survive rather than succumb.

It’s too soon to know whether this approach will work...

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Colombia’s improbable reef offers hope for coral worldwide

The Varadero reef could offer clues for the survival of other reefs in contaminated areas

Just off the shore of the city of Cartagena, home of one of Colombia’s biggest ports, lies a coral reef that campaigners are furiously battling to protect. The Varadero reef, located in Cartagena Bay, has survived against the odds to thrive in a highly polluted environment. The Caribbean Sea bay, a major waterway for shipping vessels and cruise ships, is contaminated by industrial and sewage waste.

Shipping businesses are planning to expand the canal’s Bocachica Channel and build another passageway straight through the reef, meaning a quarter of it will be destroyed and the remainder threatened.

According to marine biologists, the reef should not be alive, and yet it has flourished, providing a home to a large number of coral, fish and urchin species.

‘Improbable and imperilled’

A report,...

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Heat Waves May Cause Fish to Flee Reefs

A school of fish swims in the Coral Sea

It’s no secret that global warming is bringing dramatic changes to coral reef ecosystems. Scientists have widely believed that habitat loss caused by coral death has the biggest effect on reef fish and invertebrates. Changes caused by warm water are actually faster and more widespread than the effects of habitat loss.Now new research has found that reef fish populations shift in direct response to the temperature itself and that changes caused by warm water are actually faster and more widespread than the effects of habitat loss.

The findings are significant for coral reef protection because a loss of biodiversity, especially of fish that eat harmful algae, could make it harder for reefs to recover from heat waves.

“I was surprised by how dramatic the response was over such a short time...

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How Gene Editing Could Save Coral Reefs

Bleached coral

The powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 is taking the scientific world by storm. It gives researchers unprecedented power and precision in making tweaks to practically any gene in a plant or animal — and coral reefs could become its next beneficiary.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Phillip Cleves at Stanford University used CRISPR to edit three genes in corals growing in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Cleves manipulated the genes very early in the coral’s life cycle — just after fertilization of egg and sperm, when the coral is just one cell. That ensured that the genetic change was as widespread in the resulting coral’s genome as possible...

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UK promises to help protect coral reefs from climate change

beautiful colours of the coral reef

The UK has vowed to help protect the world’s coral reefs from climate change and warming oceans, after it yesterday announced it has formally joined the Coral Reef Life Declaration (CRLD). By joining the CRLD, the UK said it is “committing to safeguard coral reefs and bolster scientific research into the threats they face”.

Accounting for just 0.25 per cent of the world’s marine environment yet home to 25 per cent of all marine life, coral reefs are crucial to ocean eco-systems and the sustainability of many key fisheries.

Yet, as the BBC’s hit nature documentary series Blue Planet II laid bare last year, the world’s coral reefs are under severe threat from warming oceans and climate change.

Rising sea temperatures have already prompted mass bleaching of reefs, most notably on the Great B...

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Can this ultra-thin ‘sunscreen’ save the world’s largest coral reef?

Like other coral reefs around the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is facing big threats from climate change — such as warmer and more acidic seawater and increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Last year experts said large sections of the reef were essentially dead, bleached into oblivion.

But scientists Down Under have come up with a sunscreen of sorts that they say could help protect the reef during heat waves. It’s an ultra-thin layer of calcium carbonate — the same material naturally found in coral skeletons — that could be applied to the water’s surface above the reef.

“Our aim is to give the coral time to adjust to the changed conditions of high temperature and doses of UV light so that the coral forms different chemical structures that can survive,” Dr...

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Reef depletion a huge threat to Pacific countries

A coral reef off an island in Fiji's Yasawa Group

The rapid depletion of coral reefs could prove more damaging for small islands than sea level rise, according to recently published research. Coral reefs provide an important barrier for coastlines, creating friction that slows down and dissipates the energy of waves rushing in off the ocean.

But Daniel Harris, from the University of Queensland, said that with a lot of the world’s coral under threat or dying from climate change, this barrier could be rapidly lost.

Dr Harris, who studied the waves of Tahiti and Moorea, said the lack of coral could trigger a significant increase in wave size – on top of rising sea levels – which could damage vulnerable shores.

“And so that suggested that you don’t need to wait until the end of the century to have really devastating impacts on the coastline ...

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Coral reefs ‘at make or break point’, UN environment head says

Diver in coral reef

The battle to save the world’s coral reefs is at “make or break point”, and countries that host them have a special responsibility to take a leadership role by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, plastic pollution and impacts from agriculture, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) has said.

Speaking to the Guardian after the launch of International Coral Reef Initiative’s international year of the reef, Erik Solheim said he expected governments to take their efforts on reef protection in 2018 beyond symbolic designation.

“We expect governments to step up to concrete actions,” Solheim said.

To kick off ​ that effort, Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has announced new protections ​for large portions of the Great Sea Reef, by nominating it a Ramsar si...

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Some reefs are flourishing, and you can see it in 3D

A diver uses a camera to capture images of coral

Maybe it’s not the end of the world for corals after all. That’s one of the surprising findings of a new project called the 100 Island Challenge, led by two scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Jennifer Smith, Stuart Sandin and their team from Scripps are studying the changes taking place on 100 coral reef systems around the world. What they have found offers a surprising, and hopeful, glimpse of the current state of coral reefs.

Maybe it’s not the end of the world for corals after all.

That’s one of the surprising findings of a new project called the 100 Island Challenge, led by two scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Jennifer Smith, Stuart Sandin and their team from Scripps are studying the changes taking place on 10...

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Sponges and Algae ‘waging War on Caribbean Coral’

corals and sponges

Joseph Pawlik, a leading sponge maven from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, is convinced that the sponges and algae of the Caribbean’s coral reef system are suffocating the coral as they steadily encroach upon increasing real estate across the reefs. Sun-soaked algae produce a surplus of sugar, which is excreted into the surrounding water column. Sponges, in turn, crave this sugar surplus, excreting excess nitrogen, which feeds the sprawling algae. In this way, Pawlik claims the two culprits collude to become an unstoppable force in what he has called “the rise of the sponges.”

Not all concur that the sponge apocalypse is near, however. Sponges do continue to play a vital role in filtering water and providing nutrients to a wide array of animals...

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