Discovery of heat-resistant coral The endangered reef may be life-sustaining for Australia

A recent photo of the Great Barrier Reef shows the coral whitening.Image AFP

Now the world’s largest rocks are affected by heat stress, causing the corals to fade and eventually die.

Researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science Published their findings Tuesday in the magazine Natural communicationIn it, they describe the model they created to predict using reproduction experiments, camera images and artificial intelligence, where the rocks contain corals that can withstand rising sea water temperatures. They estimate that hundreds of reefs – about 7.5 percent of the total Great Barrier Reef – may be the basis of coral reefs with high heat tolerance. The corals found are from the northern and central part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Knowledge of these corals will form the basis of efforts to partially restore the Great Barrier Reef. By multiplying heat-resistant corals, large areas of rock can be protected. Authors, including Dutch marine biologist Madeleine von Open, suggest that their findings may be of major importance for the recovery of corals around the world.

Coral whitening occurs when coral polyps expel algae from the skin due to heat stress. Just last week, it was reported that the Great Barrier Reef had been hit by severe coral reefs. In some places during the recent summer months the temperature of the sea water was 2 to 4 degrees Celsius higher than normal.

Duker has been conducting research on the Great Barrier Reef since early March this year.  Image AFP

Duker has been conducting research on the Great Barrier Reef since early March this year.Image AFP

In 2016, 2017 and 2020, the Great Barrier Reef was hit by coral reefs. Coral whiteness is the initial stage at which rocks die.

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Eric Meisters, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and marine tropical ecologist not involved in this research, cites the article Natural communication ‘Highest quality’. “On the positive side, it shows that coral reefs are far from dying and that we can affect their resistance to climate change in the form of higher seawater temperatures,” says Meisters.

On the other hand, he says the research is mainly based on one type of coral and only five reefs. Although this approach can be easily extended to other species and regions, ‘corals are complex structures and this makes the predictions very uncertain.’

According to Meister, there is a good chance that researchers will overlook some related relationships: ‘Predictions are based on ecosystems and processes known to us. In the future, those circumstances may change to the point where sample predictions become completely wrong, ‘says Meisters.

For example, according to him, massive deaths in GBR combined with the abundance of nutrients already occurring in many places can lead to strong mossy flowers at the base. ‘This makes it harder to find a place for coral larvae to settle,’ says Meisters.

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