Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Victims of their own success

12.05.2016

A new expert study paints a gloomy picture of the future of tropical coral reefs. According to a team of researchers including palaeobiologist Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kießling from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Acropora, by far the most common genus of coral with the most different species, could lose the fight against the climate change being caused by humans, sparking the destruction of underwater biotopes. 'In this situation coral reefs are the victims of their own success,' Professor Kießling says.

Acropora is able to resist natural environmental influences better than other genera of coral. In fact, it even seems to use challenges such as tropical storms to its advantage in order to increase its ecological success. The delicate branches of Acropora corals are easily broken off by strong waves.


Coral left: Acropora is by far the most common genus of coral with the most different species. It forms large thickets of coral, as shown here in a reef in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Photo: Wolfgang Kießling


Coral middle: Acropora is sensitive to coral bleaching, a consequence of rising sea temperatures, which causes it to die.

Photo: Wolfgang Kießling

The fragments are carried away by the water and deposited elsewhere, where many of them grow and form new colonies over the course of decades and centuries. Acropora corals have been spreading in this way for around 50 million years.

However, the analyses carried out by Wolfgang Kießling and his colleagues indicate that Acropora was only a minor part of coral reefs up until the beginning of the ice age around two million years ago. It was not until after this time that the genus established itself across the globe, changing the composition of coral reefs dramatically.

The researchers believe that this was due to the massive fluctuations in sea level during this period. 'As it became warmer during interglacial periods and the ice sheets partially melted, the reefs were suddenly so deep under water that they no longer received enough light,' Professor Kießling explains. 'Only Acropora grew quickly enough towards the sun.'

Reefs with Acropora corals are more successful

Acropora's rapid growth has remained an unbeatable advantage until the present day, as the rule that determines the survival of a reef is simple: the biotope can only survive in the long-term if the corals grow more quickly than they are destroyed. And destruction happens continuously on coral reefs. Tropical storms make their mark, but even more damage is caused by other organisms such as parrotfish, sponges and fungi.

Acropora is able to keep the balance sheet in the black, creating the perfect habitat for other sea creatures. Biodiversity is higher in areas where many Acropora corals grow and they help distribute the energy of the waves, which helps protect the coast.

Acropora's success stands in stark contrast to the dark prognosis for its future. It is particularly sensitive to global warming and the associated acidification of the oceans, susceptible to diseases and coral bleaching, and the preferred target of the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish. Acropora has already receded rapidly in the Caribbean in recent decades with disastrous consequences for the coral reefs in the region. The researchers believe that it could soon face a similar future in other marine regions – not least as a result of human influence.

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500850

Further information
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kießling
Phone: +49 9131 8526959
wolfgang.kiessling@fau.de

Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.fau.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

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

Single-photon detector can count to 4

18.12.2017 | Information Technology

Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms

18.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How much soil goes down the drain -- New data on soil lost due to water

18.12.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>