New study suggests coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change

Oct 29, 2013
This photo shows coral reef fishes in the Coral Sea, off Australia. Credit: Rick Stuart-Smith, Reef Life Survey

Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate warming, improving their chance of surviving through the end of this century, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study funded by NOAA and researched by the agency's scientists and its academic partners. Results further suggest corals have already adapted to part of the warming that has occurred.

"Earlier modeling work suggested that would be gone by the middle of this century. Our study shows that if corals can adapt to warming that has occurred over the past 40 to 60 years, some coral reefs may persist through the end of this century," said study lead author Cheryl Logan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in California State University Monterey Bay's Division of Science and Environmental Policy. The scientists from the university, and from the University of British Columbia, were NOAA's partners in the study.

Warm water can contribute to a potentially fatal process known as coral "bleaching," in which reef-building corals eject algae living inside their tissues. Corals bleach when oceans warm only 1-2°C (2-4°F) above normal summertime temperatures. Because those algae supply the coral with most of its food, prolonged bleaching and associated disease often kills corals.

The study, published online in the journal Global Change Biology, explores a range of possible coral adaptive responses to thermal stress previously identified by the scientific community. It suggests that coral reefs may be more resilient than previously thought due to past studies that did not consider effects of possible adaptation.

The study projected that, through genetic adaptation, the reefs could reduce the currently projected rate of temperature-induced bleaching by 20 to 80 percent of levels expected by the year 2100, if there are large reductions in .

"The hope this work brings is only achieved if there is significant reduction of human-related emissions of heat-trapping gases," said Mark Eakin, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring program, which tracks bleaching events worldwide. "Adaptation provides no significant slowing in the loss of coral reefs if we continue to increase our rate of fossil fuel use."

"Not all species will be able to adapt fast enough or to the same extent, so coral communities will look and function differently than they do today," CalState's Logan said.

While this paper focuses on ocean warming, many other general threats to have been documented to exist that affect their long-term survival, such as , acidification, and sedimentation. Other threats to corals are sea-level rise, pollution, storm damage, destructive fishing practices, and direct harvest for ornamental trade.

According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000 report, coral reefs have been lost around the world in recent decades with almost 20 percent of reefs lost globally to high temperatures during the 1998-1999 El Niño and La Niña and an 80 percent percent loss of coral cover in the Caribbean was documented in a 2003 Science paper. Both rates of decline have subsequently been documented in numerous other studies as an on-going trend.

Tropical coral reef ecosystems are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and provide economic and social stability to many nations in the form of food security, where reef fish provide both food and fishing jobs, and economic revenue from tourism. Mass and reef death has increased around the world over the past three decades, raising questions about the future of .

In the study, researchers used global sea surface temperature output from the NOAA/GFDL Earth System Model-2 for the pre-industrial period though 2100 to project rates of coral bleaching.

Because initial results showed that past temperature increases should have bleached reefs more often than has actually occurred, researchers looked into ways that corals may be able to adapt to warming and delay the bleaching process.

The article calls for further research to test the rate and limit of different adaptive responses for species across latitudes and ocean basins to determine if, and how much, corals can actually respond to increasing thermal stress.

Explore further: Eilat's corals stand better chance of resilience than other sites

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User comments : 19

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Shootist
1.7 / 5 (18) Oct 29, 2013
New study suggests coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change


As if coral hasn't been around since the Cambrian.
Moebius
2 / 5 (16) Oct 30, 2013
Yes, but people haven't. Luckily moderate climate change is all we have to worry about if we deny climate change enough. All together now, everyone think positive thoughts.
EnricM
2 / 5 (16) Oct 30, 2013
Yes, but people haven't. Luckily moderate climate change is all we have to worry about if we deny climate change enough. All together now, everyone think positive thoughts.


Better yet! We can build Denial Mills! Like these prayer mills in Tibet and Nepal with prayers on them and that turn with the wind. Awesome!!!
ScooterG
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 30, 2013
New study suggests coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change


As if coral hasn't been around since the Cambrian.


This study is an on-going effort by hucksters et al to morph into a softer, less radical agw stance - their market research indicates that's the direction that will best lead to more sales.

The hucksters are simply trying to maximize profits in a highly competitive marketplace - ya' gotta' love capitalism!
NikFromNYC
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 31, 2013
Skeptics indeed deny one thing most of all: the junk science claim itself of a near 100% consensus. The first was based on a survey that included mainstream climate model skepticism within its consensus claim, and this year's "confirmation" of it with the exact same 97% result based on blog volunteer ratings of study abstracts was simply a scam by Evangelical Christian "climate justice" activist John Cook of SkepticalScience.com. Christopher Monkton who was chemist Margret Thatcher's science advisor helped teased out the deception, here:
http://wattsupwit...-errors/

A peer reviewed paper exposing the fraud is in press. In Cook's internal blog forum, he revealed premeditated conjuring. In his scam, he used the boutique term "global climate change" to exclude most normal studies of "climate change":
http://wattsupwit...onsensus
Mr_Science
1.8 / 5 (16) Oct 31, 2013
A biased blog does not prove anything. The only evidence offered on the provided link is from abstracts of papers his readers are never going to read since they are behind pay walls. The graphs provided have no references to where the data or the graphs came from. All the information could be completely made up and you would not even know it. I suggest you learn how to collect reliable information before you post any more. I'm sure you don't want to look like a buffoon.
NikFromNYC
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 31, 2013
Shame on those like "Mr_Science" who discount Harvard scientists like co-author physicist Willie Soon, publishing a paper indeed against the machinations of mere biased bloggers, gleeful that the scam they protect is taking a long time to defuse. The career busting embarrassment of now rejected author Cook was so bad that a perfectly apt cartoon nailed the situation perfectly after mainstream climatologist Mike Hulme strongly dismissed the propaganda effort:
http://www.bishop...232.html

-=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in carbon chemistry (Columbia/Harvard)
NikFromNYC
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 31, 2013
Wow, ratings bot sockpuppet account "NOM" has just downrated all of my recent comments in mere minutes. But this is a real sleeper account, going back to 2007 without ever posting an actual comment. The activity tab of commenter profiles reveals an average of a dozen dummy accounts downrating known skeptics and uprating selected Gore enthusiasts.
NOM
3.2 / 5 (13) Oct 31, 2013
No. I never post comments. Even this one is all in your sick little mind.
NikFromNYC
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 31, 2013
NOM, your profile is somehow set to stealth and your live comments were indeed found via Google. But there's nothing "sick" or "little" about hashing out the use of fake ratings bots here, now is there? Insatiable curiosity about the sociology of the Global Warming scam is big minded, actually, quite the opposite of being a Gorebot who truly believes Climatology members are infallible even as Mike Mann himself points to Phys.org threads as being Koch brother funded Astroturf. If he gets *that* so wrong, I guess he's not infallible, eh?, but in fact a ranting conspiracist. Real Astroturf money would afford a lot more professional fake citizens than the likes of me probing the ratings bots here. The bot Al_Gore has been shut off lately after I kept asking it if it was really reading posts, with no response. But maybe it's just a stealthy user too.

Other users here have suggested your stealth profile indicates a Phys.org moderator account. But a moderator who downrates and rants?
NikFromNYC
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 31, 2013
Wow, NOM, you must *not* be a moderator, since what moderator would issue his own death threats? I know Phys.org is now owned by a green energy education/consulting firm but bad PR is bad PR:
http://s12.postim...reat.jpg
NikFromNYC
1.5 / 5 (17) Oct 31, 2013
A perfect "single bullet theory" analogy to the CO₂ hypothesis of climate control is provided in today's health news:

"For many decades, people have believed that eating saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease.

In fact, this idea has been the cornerstone of mainstream nutrition recommendations.

However, studies published in the past few decades prove that saturated fat is completely harmless.

A massive study published in 2010 looked at data from a total of 21 studies that included 347,747 individuals. They found absolutely no association between saturated fat consumption and the risk of heart disease.

Multiple other studies confirm these findings… saturated fat really has nothing to do with heart disease. The "war" on fat was based on an unproven theory that somehow became common knowledge.

The truth is that saturated fat raises HDL (the "good") cholesterol."
http://www.busine...-10?op=1
NikFromNYC
1.5 / 5 (17) Oct 31, 2013
Translation:

"For many decades, people have believed that CO₂ can increase the risk of runaway climate chaos.

In fact, this idea has been the cornerstone of mainstream energy policy recommendations.

However, studies published in the past few decades prove that CO₂ is completely harmless.

A massive study published in 2013 looked at data from all the world's tide gauges. They found absolutely no association between CO₂ and sea level rise.

Multiple other studies confirm these findings… CO₂ really has nothing to do with the weather. The "war" on CO₂ was based on an unproven theory that somehow became common knowledge.

The truth is that CO₂ raises plant growth."
NikFromNYC
1.4 / 5 (18) Oct 31, 2013
Wow, NOM, you are really popular with comment-free accounts "Blotto" and "TheSicilian" that were just registered this month as seen in the Activity tab of commenter profiles here. I wonder if they have stealth accounts too though, a new idea for me, and would indicate if they are in fact also Phys.org insiders or just ratings sockpuppets? My comments were downrated twice at the same time your stealth account was uprated twice. I find this extremely relevant to the climate "debate."
NOM
3.4 / 5 (10) Nov 01, 2013
Strangely enough, I'm not the only person who thinks you are an idiot.
Mr_Science
2.1 / 5 (14) Nov 01, 2013
Shame on those like "Mr_Science" who discount Harvard scientists

I never said I discount Harvard scientists. I only said that site is biased and provides no reference to where the data is obtained and credited. Therefore, you can not expect anyone to take it as a credible site. Any and all credible scientist know the importance verifying information and provides references to the data.

How about you take some reading and comprehension classes. Then take some basic science classes and maybe you will not look like such a fool.
NOM
2.8 / 5 (9) Nov 02, 2013
If NikFromNYC is a typical example, Harvard scientists aren't just discounted, they're "buy one get one free"
Estevan57
1.5 / 5 (15) Nov 05, 2013
If you're an example, NOM, this site is run by assholes.
NOM
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 05, 2013
If I was an admin, do you really think that cowardly little sock-puppeteers like you would still be here?