Tel Aviv University Professor (and alumnus) Hudi Benayahu, head of TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies, has found that soft corals, an integral and important part of reef environments, are simply melting and wasting away. And Prof. Benayahu believes this could mean a global marine catastrophe.
Environmental stress, says Benayahu, is damaging the symbiotic relationship between soft corals and the microscopic symbiotic algae living in their tissues. There is no doubt that global warming is to blame, warns the marine biologist, explaining that this symbiotic relationship is key for the survival of most soft corals.
Soft corals help maintain the health and balance of reef ecosystems and provide protection to numerous animals such as “Nemo”, the famous clown fish from the Walt Disney movie. They are also a rich and promising source of life-saving drugs against cancer and deadly infectious diseases.
Says Prof. Benayahu, “It's too late. We have now actually missed the boat in finding some key pharmaceuticals. There is a huge gap in our knowledge of soft corals in the reef environment, and with the rate of extinction, we have lost certain species forever.”
We may never recover certain therapeutic drugs, and humans could not live with a wide-spread extinction of marine life, he points out. Life as we know it could not exist if the marine environment, an important producer of oxygen, continues to follow this course.
Unlike their harder brethren, soft corals have no stony calcified outer skeleton to protect them. When they die, they are gone for good, leaving no trace of their existence. Where soft corals were once found in about 50-60 percent of Prof. Benayahu’s study sites around the globe, a few years later he is finding that only about 5 percent remain.
Earlier this year, Prof. Benayahu observed of a Japanese soft coral reef, “There was a massive disappearance of soft corals. You can't imagine this was the same site. Just two years passed and the entire area was deserted, lifeless."
But there is still hope. Prof. Benayahu recently returned from Phuket, Thailand, where he gave a training workshop to international students on the biology of soft corals. Future marine biologists from countries such as Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Israel and Thailand participated. The workshop was intended to increase awareness of what could be a global environmental catastrophe.
“I am hoping that these young scientists will take what they learned to better understand how they can save soft corals back in their home countries,” says Prof. Benayahu, who is also a professor of marine biology in the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University.
With more than 35 years experience in the field, Prof. Benayahu is one of a handful of world experts who devotes his life to the taxonomy, ecology and biology of soft corals. He has discovered dozens of new soft coral species across the entire Indo-Pacific region, and he carefully studies with his students the role these species play in the reef environment. He has received numerous grants to support his work, including one from the National Geographic Society to study marine life and soft corals on shipwrecks.
Prof. Benayahu received both his Masters and Ph.D. degress in marine biology from Tel Aviv University. In 1982 he did post-doctoral training at natural history museums across Europe, as well as one year at Florida International University (Florida). Since 1987 he has been a Professor in the Department of Zoology at TAU and has published over 125 refereed papers.
George Hunka | EurekAlert!
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences