A new study by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science shows that corals may be more severely impacted by climate warming when they contain too many symbiotic algae.
A new study by scientists Ross Cunning and Andrew Baker at the University of Miami shows that corals may be more severely impacted by climate warming when they contain too many symbiotic algae. The single-celled algae living inside corals are usually the key to coral success, providing the energy needed to build massive reef frameworks. However, when temperatures become too warm, these algae are expelled from corals during episodes of coral 'bleaching' that can lead to widespread death of corals. Until now, it was thought that corals with more algal symbionts would be more tolerant of bleaching because they had 'more symbionts to lose.' The new findings, published in Nature Climate Change shows that the more symbiotic algae a coral had, the more severely it bleached, showing that too much of a good thing can actually be bad.
Credit: P.W. Glynn
The single-celled algae living inside corals are usually the key to coral success, providing the energy needed to build massive reef frameworks. However, when temperatures become too warm, these algae are expelled from corals during episodes of coral 'bleaching' that can lead to widespread death of corals.
Until now, it was thought that corals with more algal symbionts would be more tolerant of bleaching because they had 'more symbionts to lose.' The new study shows that the opposite is true.
"We discovered that the more symbiotic algae a coral has, the more severely it bleaches, showing that too much of a good thing can actually be bad," said Ross Cunning, Ph.D. student and lead author of the study. "We also learned that the number of algae in corals varies over time, which helps us better understand coral bleaching risk."
His research was conducted using cauliflower coral (Pocillopora damicornis) collected from the Pacific coast of Panama. The corals were monitored for six months at the UM's Experimental Hatchery, where they slowly warmed up and ultimately bleached. The number of symbiotic algae in the corals was studied by analyzing DNA samples with new highly sensitive genetic techniques that determine the ratio of algal cells to coral cells. This improved technique made the discovery possible by showing that corals with more algae bleached more severely than those with fewer algae.
"Corals regulate their symbionts to match the environment in which they are found, and this study shows there is a real cost to having too many," said co-author Andrew Baker, associate professor at UM's Rosenstiel School. "There are real-world implications of this. Corals will be more vulnerable to bleaching if they are found in environments which increase the number of symbionts, such as coastal reefs polluted by wastewater and runoff. If we can improve water quality, we might be able to buy some time to help these reefs avoid the worst effects of climate change.
"Other environmental changes, including ocean acidification as a result of increasing carbon dioxide emissions, might also influence bleaching vulnerability in ways we haven't thought of before," Baker added.
The article entitled "Excess algal symbionts increase the susceptibility of reef corals to bleaching" authored by Cunning and Baker appears in the Advance Online Publication of Nature Climate Change on October 14th. Support was provided by a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to Andrew Baker, and grants from the National Science Foundation (OCE-0527184 and OCE-0526361). Ross Cunning was supported by a University of Miami Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
The University of Miami's mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940's, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.
Barbra Gonzalez | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy