Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient corals hold new hope for reefs

02.03.2010
Fossil corals, up to half a million years old, are providing fresh hope that coral reefs may be able to withstand the huge stresses imposed on them by today’s human activity.

Reef ecosystems were able to persist through massive environmental changes imposed by sharply falling sea levels during previous ice ages, an international scientific team has found. This provides new hope for their capacity to endure the increasing human impacts forecast for the 21st century.

In the world’s first study of what happened to coral reefs when ocean levels sank to their lowest recorded level – over 120 metres below today’s levels – a study carried out on eight fossil reefs in Papua New Guinea’s Huon Gulf region has concluded that a rich diversity of corals managed to survive, although they were different in composition to the corals under more benign conditions.

“Of course, sea levels then were falling – and today they are rising. But if we want to know how corals cope with hostile conditions, then we have to study what happens under all circumstances,” explains Professor John Pandolfi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland. “We’ve seen what happens to corals in the past when sea levels rose and conditions were favourable to coral growth: we wanted to see what happened when they fell and conditions were adverse.”

“When sea levels drop you get a catastrophic reduction in coral habitat and a loss of connectivity between reefs. Well, those circumstances are in some respects similar to what corals are experiencing today due to human impacts – so there are useful parallels.”

“Although it is little asked, the question of where reef species go when faced with extreme environmental situations is highly relevant for understanding their prospects of survival in the future – and what we need to do to give them the best chance,” Prof. Pandolfi suggests.

In the Huon region, the team found, coral reefs survived the hard times low of sea levels with as much richness of species – but with a different composition to what they had during the good times. “As a rule the coral colonies during the period of low sea levels were closer to the sea floor and slower-growing in comparison with times of high sea levels.”

“What we have found suggests that reef systems are able to survive adverse conditions given suitable shallow rocky habitat. An interesting finding of this study is that complex coral ecosystems were maintained during the less optimal periods of low sea level. These may have been critical to the re-establishment of nearby reefs once environmental conditions began to improve.”

“The fossil record shows that reefs have been remarkably successful in surviving large environmental disturbances. However the combination of drastic environmental changes that we’re seeing today, such as degraded water quality, depleted fish stocks, coral bleaching, ocean acidification and loss of habitat are unprecedented in the history of coral reefs. Although this study clearly highlights the resilience of reef ecosystems, it is important not to underestimate the magnitude of the challenges that reefs are currently facing. “

Prof. Pandolfi says we somehow have to find ways of preventing or offsetting each of these impacts if we expect our reefs to ride out the major climatic changes of the 21st century in as good condition as they have in the past.

Their paper “Community dynamics of Pleistocene coral reefs during alternative climatic regimes”, by Danika Tager, Jody M. Webster, Don Potts, Willem Renema, Juan C. Braga and John M. Pandolfi appears in the latest issue of Ecology, 91(1), 2010, pp. 191–200.

More information:
Professor John Pandolfi, COECRS and UQ, +61 (0)7 3365 3050 or 0400 982 301
Danika Tager, 0406 372 178
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, +61 (0)7 4781 4222
Jan King, UQ Communications Manager, +61 (0)7 3365 1120

John Pandolfi | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.coralcoe.org.au/
http://www.cms.uq.edu.au

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>