Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Even thermally tolerant corals are in hot water when it comes to bleaching


Scientists have discovered that corals adapted to naturally high temperatures, such as those off the north west coast of Australia, are nonetheless highly susceptible to heat stress and bleaching.

Coral bleaching happens when sea temperatures rise, causing the breakdown of the symbiosis between coral and their zooxanthellae (the microscopic plants which gives coral most of its colour), which can be fatal for the coral.

Intertidal acropora corals exposed to air at low tide.

Credit: Verena Schoepf

Study lead author, Dr Verena Schoepf from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute says the researchers were surprised to find that corals around the Kimberley region in north Western Australia are just as sensitive to heat stress and bleaching as their counterparts from less extreme environments elsewhere.

"We found that exceeding their maximum monthly summer temperatures by 1 degree Centigrade for only a few days is enough to induce coral bleaching," Dr Schoepf says.

"We were surprised because under normal conditions, Kimberley corals can tolerate short-term temperature extremes and regular exposure to air without obvious signs of stress."

With up to 10m tides, the Kimberley region has the largest tropical tides in the world, creating naturally extreme and highly dynamic coastal habitats that corals from more typical reefs could not survive.

"Unfortunately the fact that Kimberley corals are not immune to bleaching suggests that corals living in naturally extreme temperature environments are just as threatened by climate change as corals elsewhere," says Dr Schoepf.

"We found that both branching and massive corals exposed at low tide coped better with heat stress than s corals from deeper water," says co-author Professor Malcolm McCulloch from the Coral CoE.

"However this doesn't mean that they are immune to bleaching," Professor McCulloch says.

The research, which was carried out in partnership with the Western Australian Marine Science Institution, also found that massive corals had a better chance of surviving and recovering from bleaching than branching corals.

The current strong El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific puts many coral reefs at risk of severe bleaching, and recent weather predictions show that the Kimberley region might be particularly affected in 2016.

"With the third global bleaching event underway, it has never been more urgent to understand the limits of coral thermal tolerance in corals," says Professor McCulloch.

Co-authors on the study also included Dr Michael Stat from the Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) Laboratory at Curtin University and Dr James Falter from the Coral CoE at the University of Western Australia.



Limits to the thermal tolerance of corals adapted to a highly fluctuating, naturally extreme temperature environment, by Verena Schoepf, Michael Stat, James L. Falter and Malcolm T. McCulloch is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports


Link to Dropbox -- Please use image credits supplied in dropbox


Dr Verena Schoepf
mobile: 61-(0)-416-540-415,

Professor Malcolm McCulloch

Eleanor Gregory, Communications Manager

Eleanor Gregory | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>