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 How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

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...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>