Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Surviving Harsh Environments Becomes a Death-Trap for Specialist Corals

21.05.2015

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.”

References:
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

Contact Information
Glenn Harris
Media Relations Officer
G.Harris@soton.ac.uk
Phone: +44 23 8059 3212

Glenn Harris | newswise

Further reports about: Arabian Persian Symbiodinium alga coral reefs corals global warming levels salinity symbiont temperatures

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

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: Error-free into the Quantum Computer Age

A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.

In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...

Im Focus: Search for planets with Carmenes successful

German and Spanish researchers plan, build and use modern spectrograph

Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The body's street sweepers

18.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Fast flowing heat in layered material heterostructures

18.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

Life on the edge prepares plants for climate change

18.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>