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New Study Confirms Some Corals Adapt To Climate Change

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Phys.org

New research shows that not all corals respond the same to changes in climate.

New study shows some corals might adapt to climate changes
Orbicella faveolata, commonly known as mountainous star coral with young Sargeant Major fish, Abudefduf saxatilis. Evan’s reef Broad Key, Florida. Credit: Evan K. D’Alessandro, Ph.D. UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

New research shows that not all corals respond the same to changes in climate. The University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study looked at the sensitivity of two types of corals found in Florida and the Caribbean and found that one of them—mountainous star coral—possesses an adaptation that allows it to survive under high temperatures and acidity conditions.

“Stressful periods of high temperature and increasingly acidic conditions are becoming more frequent and longer lasting in Florida waters,” said Chris Langdon, marine biology and ecology professor and lead author on the new study. “However, we found that not all coral species are equally sensitive to climate change and there’s hope that some species that seemed doomed may yet develop adaptations that will allow them to survive as well.”

The researchers exposed two threatened Caribbean reef-building coral species, staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) and mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata), were exposed to combinations of normal (26 degrees Celsius) and elevated temperature (32 degrees Celsius) and increased carbon dioxide levels (pH 7.8/800 ppm) for nine weeks. Genetic and physiological data such as skeletal growth was then collected on the corals to determine if stress events are recorded in a coral’s skeletal history.

At the end of the nine weeks any corals that were still surviving were recovered at the cool temperature and normal pH to determine the capacity of these corals to bounce back once environmental conditions became more hospitable as naturally occurs as summer transitions into fall.

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see also GWPF coverage of coral adaptation to climate change