Ocean Heatwaves Affect Coral Reefs More Than Initially Expected
Ocean Heatwaves Affect Coral Reefs More Than Initially Expected
10 August, 2019, 10:09
This discovery fits into this category. When degradation occurs, coral can often regenerate when ocean temperatures level back out, but these ocean heat waves appear quicker and linger longer causing the coral to dies off completely.
The study by a team of researchers from UNSW Sydney, The University of Newcastle, The University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA was published today in journal Current Biology. The report indicates that the benefits derived by humans from coral reefs "span from coastal protection to subsistence and industrial fisheries", and that these industries depend on the structural integrity of the coral reefs' 3-D structures, which are greatly compromised by ongoing climate change as well as ocean heatwaves.
The scientists concluded that severe and frequent marine heatwaves can destroy corals through a processes called "bleaching".
As a result, heat wave-induced mortality events should be viewed as a distinct biological phenomenon from bleaching events, she said.
"But what we are now seeing is that severe marine heatwave events can have a far more severe impact than coral bleaching", Ainsworth continued.
Their research showed that while it was previously understood that coral bleaching can lead to a break down of symbiosis, marine heatwaves can lead directly to heat-induced mortality of the coral animal as well.
Commenting on the paper, Dr Laura Richardson, from the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, UK, said that the really significant discovery was "the rapidity with which the reef skeleton breaks down when you have these severe heatwaves".
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The researchers also have evidence that the skeleton of corals, also an animal species, begin to decay within weeks of a marine heatwave.
Laura Richardson at the United Kingdom -based Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences-who was not involved in the study-told BBC News that the team's significant discovery was "the rapidity with which the reef skeleton breaks down when you have these severe heatwaves".
The effects of climate change on coral reefs is fairly well-known; most schoolchildren have seen side-to-side comparisons of lively, healthy coral reefs juxtaposed with bleached, lifeless ones, caused by pollution and other human activities.
"We were able to study the consequences of this process of rapid colonisation using CT scanning of the coral skeleton - as would be used in medical imaging".
"Given that the degradation of coral reefs will result in the collapse of ecosystem services that sustain over half a billion people, we urgently need actions both globally and locally that protect and conserve these truly wonderful places".
PBS News Hourreported that "without the option to recover, the world may start seeing corals die off faster than expected".
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