Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Corals "facing a stormy future"

25.06.2009
As global warming whips up more powerful and frequent hurricanes and storms, the world’s coral reefs face increased disruption to their ability to breed and recover from damage.

That’s one of the findings from a new scientific study of the fate of corals in the wake of large climate-driven bleaching and storm events.

“We have found clear evidence that coral recruitment – the regrowth of young corals – drops sharply in the wake of a major bleaching event or a hurricane,” says lead author Dr Jennie Mallela of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Australian National University.

Using the island of Tobago in the Caribbean as their laboratory she and colleague Professor James Crabbe of the University of Bedfordshire, UK, backtracked to 1980 to see what had happened to the corals in the wake of nine hurricanes, tropical storms and bleaching events.

“In every case there was a sharp drop in coral recruitment following the event – often by as much as two thirds to three quarters. Not only were fewer new coral colonies formed, but also far fewer of the major reef building coral species recruited successfully.”

“This finding mirrors our modelling studies on the fringing reefs of Jamaica, and on the Meso-American Barrier reef off the coast of Belize”, says Prof. Crabbe.

Tobago lies outside the main Caribbean hurricane belt and therefore is more typical of the circumstances of most coral reefs around the world. Nevertheless its corals are disrupted by a major storm or bleaching every three or four years – and the frequency of this may be growing.

“Climate researchers are seeing increasing evidence for a direct relationship between global warming and rising hurricane intensity as well as frequency,” Jennie explains. “Global warming produces significant increases in the frequency of high sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and hurricane winds are strengthened by warm surface waters.”

The high temperatures cause bleaching, while the storms inflict physical destruction on the corals as well as eroding the rocky platforms they need to grow on, or burying them in sand.

“Maintaining coral reef populations in the face of large-scale degradation depends critically on recruitment – the ability of the corals to breed successfully and settle on the reef to form new colonies. Our research suggests this process is severely disrupted after one of these major events.”

If the disruption is sufficiently large it may threaten the actual survival of some of the larger and more spectacular reef building and brain corals, she says. “In the aftermath of a big storm or bleaching event, some of these important species appear not to have recruited at all.

“Healthy reefs usually have high numbers of coral recruits and juvenile corals, whereas degraded systems typically have far fewer young colonies.”

The concern is that if major storms and bleaching become more frequent as the climate warms, the ability of individual reefs to renew themselves may break down completely, Jennie says.

“While our work was carried out in the Caribbean, it has general implications for coral reefs globally, and deepens our concern as to what may happen to them as global warming advances and the world’s climate becomes more tempestuous.”

The research paper is Mallela, J., Crabbe, M.J.C., Hurricanes and coral bleaching linked to changes in coral recruitment in Tobago, and is published in the latest issue of Marine Environmental Research (2009).

More information:
Dr Jennie Mallela, CoECRS, ANU and University of the West Indies, ph 02 6125 9960 or 0488 459 907; email: jennie.mallela@anu.edu.au
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, 07 4781 4222
Martyn Pearce, ANU Media, 02 6125 5575 or 0416 249 245
http://www.coralcoe.org.au/
Professor MJC Crabbe,
Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies & Science,
University of Bedfordshire,
Luton, LU1 3JU, UK.
Email: james.crabbe@beds.ac.uk, Mobile: +44 7802911704

Jennie Mallela | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.anu.edu.au

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

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

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

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: 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...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

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

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>