Limited iron availability shown to exacerbate coral bleaching

August 26, 2011
Stylophora pistillata at Myrmidon Reef, Great Barrier Reef

(PhysOrg.com) -- It is widely held that coral bleaching occurs when temperatures and solar radiation are high, overwhelming antioxidant defenses in the algal endosymbionts and their coral hosts. Little understood are the biological mechanisms underlying such destabilization under stressful conditions.

An international research team led by Malcolm Shick and chemical oceanographer Mark Wells of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences studied the symbiotic coral Stylophora pistillata from the to fathom the role of iron limitation on coral bleaching. Iron and other trace metals are essential for photosynthesis, antioxidant defenses and other metabolic processes.

Their study is the first to demonstrate that limited iron availability exacerbated the high-temperature stress in S. pistillataby decreasing its photosynthetic efficiency and antioxidant defenses.

The implication is that the degree of coral stress in natural environments under high light and temperature may be modulated by trace-metal nutrition.

The findings of the research team, which included scientists from the University of Western Ontario and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, were published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

Explore further: Satellite praised for coral bleaching info

Related Stories

Larry's cool change good for reef

March 22, 2006

Cyclone Larry has been a nightmare on land but underwater, it may have helped save the Great Barrier Reef from disaster. University of Queensland coral reef expert Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said Larry's wind had cooled ...

Coral disease outbreaks linked to cooler temperatures

September 17, 2010

For the first time, scientists have linked mild water temperatures during the preceding winter period with outbreaks of coral diseases on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. By studying satellite measurements of unusual sea surface ...

Fears mount of massive Caribbean coral bleaching: study

September 23, 2010

Above-average temperatures this year could spark massive coral bleaching in the Caribbean basin region, experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned Wednesday after a major study.

Recommended for you

New study sheds light on end of Snowball Earth period

August 24, 2015

The second ice age during the Cryogenian period was not followed by the sudden and chaotic melting-back of the ice as previously thought, but ended with regular advances and retreats of the ice, according to research published ...

Earth's mineralogy unique in the cosmos

August 26, 2015

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.