coral tagged posts

Great Barrier Reef hard coral cover close to record lows

Great Barrier Reef

Hard coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef is near record lows in its northern stretch and in decline in the south, surveys by government scientists have found. A report card by the government’s Australian Institute of Marine Science says hard coral cover in the northern region above Cooktown is at 14% – a slight increase on last year but close to the lowest since monitoring began in 1985. A series of “disturbances” – coral bleaching linked to rising water temperatures, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and tropical cyclones – have caused hard coral cover to decline to between 10% and 30% across much of the world heritage landmark over the past five years.

Mike Emslie, the institute’s acting head of long-term monitoring, said the report included glimmers of hope: individua...

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Scientists search for coral’s new home

diagram

Coral reefs have long faced problems like overfishing, global warming and pollution—but they’re also threatened by how slow they regenerate. To reproduce, coral release sperm and eggs and form larvae, which then swim around and attach to a surface, where they begin to develop into coral polyps and grow. They face a variety of competitors, and most don’t survive. If they do survive, it takes years for the coral to be able to reproduce, and even longer for entire reefs to form.

Researchers at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois want to increase the rate of coral regeneration by creating a new home for coral larvae: artificial structures that encourage larvae settlement and discourage the growth of competitor species.

The research will be led...

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Coral reefs ‘weathered dinosaur extinction’

coral reef

Corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae which live inside them as much as 160 million years ago, according to new research. The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they need each other to survive. But this partnership was previously thought to have developed about 60 million years ago.

The new findings suggest that reef algae may have weathered significant environmental changes over time. This includes the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Algae’s resilience to temperature changes has been of concern to scientists recently, as warming events on the Great Barrier Reef have seen the coral “bleached” of its algae.

The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, aimed to explore the diversity of algae species co-habiting with co...

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Rare coral found off the west coast of Ireland

Rare coral found in Irish waters

Rare coral has been found in a deep sea research mission off the west coast of Ireland. Scientists from the Marine Institute in Galway found a black coral previously undocumented in Irish waters. 

The team of marine experts, who spent three weeks at sea, also spotted areas of potential sponge reef, previously only recorded in Canadian waters.

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The Science Behind Coral

Coral reefs

The color coral gets its unique coloration from the organisms that live within the coral, forming a symbiotic relationship with it. The organisms that give coral their color are called zooxanthellae, and the coral reefs provide the organisms with a safe place to live.

To better understand the relationship between coral and zooxanthellae, it would help to know some more about both the coral and the zooxanthellae that inhabit the coral.

Fact about coral

Coral, though many people mistake them for plants, are actually marine invertebrates. Coral are of the class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria, and they can reproduce either sexually or asexually. The Cnidaria phylum contains other creatures like anemones and jellyfish, any animal which can be referred to as a polyp.

Coral typically coexist in tigh...

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Coral with white syndrome

Off the coast of Southeast Florida, a mysterious new disease is killing coral reefs, turning them white and leaving nothing but a skeleton behind. More than half of the state’s 330-year-old Coral Reef Tract, which stretches across 175 miles in the Florida Keys, is infected with the disease. It’s called “white syndrome” by scientists because white stripes or spots cover the coral, and it was discovered in fall 2014.

Throughout 2017, the disease spread to a point where half the coral at some sites were affected, even some that had been considered the most resilient and important for reef building, according to a newsletter by the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, which helps raise awareness about Florida’s reefs.

The causes of the disease are still unknown, though researche...

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The ocean heatwave that killed a WA reef

Bleached coral

Record-breaking sea surface temperatures in 2016 bleached up to 80 per cent of the Kimberley’s super-tough coral and nearly 30 per cent of coral off Rottnest Island, scientists say. Despite being home to some of the world’s most stress-resistant coral, in-shore Kimberley reefs, were devastated by the most severe global bleaching event ever recorded, a survey of the entire WA coastline has found.

The researchers from UWA, the ARC Centre of Excellence and WA Marine Science Institution found Ningaloo Reef, which is still recovering from major bleaching in 2010-11, was not affected.

The 2016 global bleaching event was the third and longest on record and the Kimberley region was the hardest hit.

Between March and May 2016, the world’s oceans were 0...

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Can corals adapt to climate change?

coral bleaching

Cool-water corals can adapt to a slightly warmer ocean, but only if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. That’s according to a study published November 1 in the journal Science Advances of genetic adaptation and the likely effects of future warming on tabletop corals in the Cook Islands.

The study found that some corals in the normally cool waters of the Cook Islands carry genetic variants that predispose them to heat tolerance. This could help the population adapt more quickly to rising temperatures. But the preliminary results show they may not adapt quickly enough to outpace climate change.

“These corals aren’t going to adapt at an unlimited rate,” said lead author Rachael Bay, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Davis...

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Corals eat plastic like we eat junk food

Coral eating

Plastics are abundant in our oceans. Now scientists have found that corals — which already faces numerous threats and have declined on a staggering scale  — may be feeding on it not because it resembles prey, but because it actually tastes good to them.

Corals are living organisms. Coral reefs are collections of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of tiny creatures called polyps which attach themselves to a rock or the skeletons of dead corals. The beautiful colours you may be familiar with are caused by microscopic algae that live inside their tissue.

And while we may appreciate their beauty, corals are an important feature in our oceans, providing food and shelter for millions of marine creatures.

But there’s also something else in abundance in our waters: plastic...

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Race To Decode Coral DNA

Coral bleaching

Marine biologist Ruth Gates sat down in an oversized wooden rocking chair at an oceanside resort here last week to talk about the next frontier in coral science and a new hope for saving coral reefs reeling from climate change: genetic technology.

“There are hundreds of species of coral, all with complex biologies and physiological traits that vary based on their DNA and environment,” Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said while seated on a sprawling lanai overlooking acres of coral reefs awash in turquoise waters.

“Using genetic technology to identify corals resilient to environmental stressors may allow us to save corals – which are some of the most threatened organisms on Earth,” added Gates, a leading coral scientist who was featured in the new docume...

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