May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

Heat-Resistant Corals Could Save the Reefs From Bleaching

May 13, 2019 10:33 PM EDT

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Coral transplant
(Photo : Mudasir Zainuddin)
Coral transplantation is one of the ways to rehabilitate coral reefs on the coast and ocean. Coral transplants use parts of coral with a size of 10 cm (fragmentation), a coral commonly used in coral transplants is branching coral.

As the years go by, the temperature of the Earth continues to rise due to the seemingly unavoidable emission of greenhouse gases. This means that even the oceans are experiencing a rise in temperatures. As a result, more and more coral reefs experience coral bleaching which then leads to the death of the coral.

Coral bleaching happens when the algae that reside in the corals would leave because of the rising temperature. Corals get its colors from the algae that feed it and lives in its bony structure. The absence of algae in the coral would mean the absence of color and coral could also suffer from starvation.

Previous research has shown that 80% of deaths in the Caribbean coral reefs and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was caused by bleaching. Various efforts are being done in the goal to save the corals from disappearing entirely from the oceans of the world.

New research, spearheaded by two scientists from Stanford University, was successful in searching for a way to relocate some naturally heat-resistant corals. Megan Marikawa and Stephen Palumbi started the research in the effort to study ways on how to prevent further coral loss. In their research, they have found out the proper way of transplanting naturally heat-resistant corals, ensuring that the corals would survive the new environment.

Previous research has shown that there are some corals which can withstand warmer temperatures. However, there are several unknowns that the pair of scientist needed to explore. These unknown factors include whether the individual specimens within a species or group are resistant, or if the entire species is resistant to the warm temperature. They also studied whether the species of the algae play a role in the said resistance, or if the other environmental factors are the main players.

In 2014, Morikawa and Palumbi collected samples of known heat-tolerant corals. They transplanted these corals around the Samoan Islands. The site where they transplanted the heat resistant is known to have coral reefs that have been destroyed by many hurricanes. Eight months later, an El Niño event warmed the same waters. Recently, the researcher duo has reported that the transplanted corals have survived the El Niño event.

The results of the research have proven that transplanting heat-resistant coral is one easy way to revive the coral reefs that have already died.

Although the study was successful, the researchers are still recommending that more study should be done to come up with the best approach in reviving coral reefs that have been depleted.

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