The success of corals that adapt to survive in the world’s hottest sea could contribute to their demise through global warming, according to new research.
Professor Jörg Wiedenmann
Corals and their symbiotic algae in the Arabian Gulf are adapted to survive extreme temperature and salinity level
Researchers from the University of Southampton and the New York University Abu Dhabi found that local adaptation to high salinity levels in the southern Persian/Arabian Gulf (PAG) may prevent coral escaping their fate, as they lose their superior heat tolerance in waters with normal salinity levels.
The research is published this week in The ISME Journal, a world leading publication platform for ecological research, from where it can be freely accessed via http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ismej201580a.html
Warm water corals depend on a vital partnership with unicellular algae of the genus Symbiodinium. Damage to the algal symbiont through heat stress can result in the breakdown of the association, leading to fatal coral bleaching. Most corals fall victim to bleaching at water temperatures above 32ºC. However, corals from the PAG region survive summer peak temperatures of up to 35ºC on a regular basis.
Senior author of the study, Professor Jörg Wiedenmann from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, explains: “It was not clear whether this resilience is related to the presence of a new type of symbiotic alga (Symbiodinium thermophilum) that was recently discovered by our team in this region. Therefore, we used molecular markers to identify the algal partners of three coral species along the coast of the southern Gulf and the adjacent Gulf of Oman. We found that this special symbiont indeed seems to play an integral role for coral survival in the world’s hottest sea.”
The researchers studied corals along 1,000km of coastline in the southern PAG, a region where the world’s warmest coral reef habitats are separated from the wider Indian Ocean by the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Notably, the PAG features not only record temperatures, but the water is also exceptionally salty.
Professor Wiedenmann, who runs the University’s Coral Reef Laboratory based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, continues: “As soon as you leave the Gulf, corals start to host different symbionts. This ‘partner exchange’ starts when the salinity of the water approaches normal oceanic levels.”
Lead-author Dr Cecilia D’Angelo, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, says: “We have simulated these conditions in our laboratory and found that corals from the Gulf lose their exceptional heat stress tolerance when they need to cope at the same time with salinity levels commonly found in coral reefs elsewhere. This may explain why the PAG-typical coral-alga associations are rarely found in the less salty water or the Gulf of Oman.”
Dr D’Angelo adds: “Some corals may potentially escape their fate in waters heated by global warming by shifting their geographic distribution. However, our findings indicate that in addition to barriers such as landmasses, the lack of suitable substrate for settlement and adverse currents, the dependence on certain local environmental conditions may represent an invisible fence that could trap corals in their endangered habitat.”
With rising ocean temperatures anticipated to cause a loss of most warm water reefs within the next 100 years, it has been discussed whether heat tolerant corals adapted to hot environments, such as PAG, could be used to replenish reefs damaged by global warming elsewhere.
Professor Wiedenmann comments: “Our results suggest that the transplantation of corals over large geographic distances is not a straight-forward solution to restore reefs since they may struggle to adjust to different environmental factors apart from the temperature in the new habitat. Efforts to protect coral reefs should rather focus on other measures including the reduction of nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, overfishing and destructive coastal development. At the same time all attempts should be made to reduce CO2 emissions to prevent further global warming.”
Cecilia D’Angelo, Benjamin C.C. Hume, John Burt, Edward G. Smith, Eric P. Achterberg and Jörg Wiedenmann (2015). Local adaptation constrains the distribution potential of heat-tolerant Symbiodinium from the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The ISME Journal, DOI 10.1038/ismej.2015.80
Free download: http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ismej201580a.html
Hume, B.C.C. et al. Symbiodinium thermophilum sp. nov., a thermotolerant symbiotic alga prevalent in corals of the world’s hottest sea, the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Sci. Rep. 5, 8562; DOI:10.1038/srep08562 (2015).
Free download: http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150224/srep08562/full/srep08562.html
D’Angelo, C. and Wiedenmann, J. "Impacts of Nutrient Enrichment on Coral Reefs: New Perspectives and Implications for Coastal Management and Reef Survival." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 7, (2014): 82-93.
Free download: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343513001917
Media Relations Officer
Phone: +44 23 8059 3212
Glenn Harris | newswise
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences