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 A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

nachricht CWRU researchers find a chemical solution to shrink digital data storage
22.06.2017 | Case Western Reserve 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: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>