Rachel Browne April 01, 2012
Hope … some coral can withstand temperature change. Photo: Tourism Queensland
CORAL that has been exposed to fluctuating water temperatures in the past may be able to survive warmer ocean climates in the future, giving hope to the long-term wellbeing of the world's reefs.
A team of scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the University of British Columbia in Canada and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US made the discovery after studying the health of coral in the remote Pacific island republic of Kiribati.
Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed online journal PLoS One yesterday.
Dr Jessica Carilli, a post-doctoral fellow in ANSTO's Institute for Environmental Research who took part in the research, said the findings suggest that some coral reefs will be able to withstand a predicted rise in sea temperature caused by climate change.
When water temperature rises, the algae that gives coral its colour and provides food is expelled in a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. However, in areas where temperatures fluctuate, the coral seems to have adapted for survival.
The world's largest best known reef, the Great Barrier Reef, covers such a large region, some areas have stable sea temperatures while others do not.
Dr Carilli said it would be hard to predict how the 2600-kilometre long reef would fare overall in rising sea temperatures.