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Algae mate helps corals survive heat waves

wallpapers News 2020-07-10
Many corals of

on Christmas Isl in the Pacific Ocean were bleached died in the long heat wave (right) but some survived due to their special companions. Photo source: Danielle CLAAR Kevin Bruce

corals are very sensitive to changes in sea water temperature. Just a few degrees Celsius will lead to coral bleaching lead them to death. Nowadays driven by climate change ocean heat wave is becoming one of the biggest threats to the survival of tropical coral reefs. But the good news for the researchers is that some corals can recover from albinism before the heat wave ends suggesting that they may survive long-term heat waves. Nancy Knowlton a coral reef biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of natural history said research shows that reducing water pollution other environmental pressures can enhance coral reefs' ability to withst the impact of climate change.

previously researchers believed that most corals can only survive a few weeks of heat waves. However no one has studied the survival of coral reefs in long-term heat waves.

in 2015 2016 marine ecologist Julia Baum of the University of Victoria in Canada her students began to investigate coral reefs around Christmas Isl in the central Pacific Ocean. They attached metal tags to two common corals (brain corals star corals) identified the symbiotic algae their living conditions in the 141 corals by DNA sequencing. They sampled these algal symbionts six times when the heat wave hit weakened. From May 2015 the temperature of

increased by about 1 ℃ in two months. As expected corals with heat sensitive algae bleach faster than those with heat-resistant algae. As the sea continues to warm even heat-resistant algae are expelled by corals. But many of the brain corals star corals on Christmas Isl have recovered from bleaching while the water is still unusually warm. So far marine biologists have found that albino corals can only recover when the water cools to normal temperature. And the unexpected recovery of Christmas Isl corals brings new hope because it means that some of them can be saved even in long heat waves. Recently the

research team reported in the nature communication that an unusual feature of coral recovery is that the survival rate of brain corals with heat sensitive algae parasitism (82%) is higher than that with thermotolerant algae (25%).

Madeleine van oppen a coral geneticist at the University of Melbourne in Australia said the findings were surprising "very attractive.". Danielle CLAAR the lead author of the

research paper a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington said that thermosensitive algae provide more food energy to coral hosts than heat-resistant algae so that corals can survive the bleaching process by storing more food energy. In fact water quality will affect the selection of algae "mate" by corals. Because heat-resistant algae are usually more resistant to stress they can help corals survive in polluted waters. Coral colonies on Christmas Isl with heat-resistant algae tend to be closer to large villages where the water contains excess sediment other types of pollutants. Corals in far away clean waters choose heat sensitive algae. The team pointed out that the reason why corals choose this way is not only that heat sensitive algae can provide more energy storage for corals but also that corals living in clean water have a stronger immune system.

Baum said there has been some controversy over whether local environment such as pollution overfishing will affect the ability of reefs to survive in heat waves. Some researchers believe that local environmental conditions are not important. "This paper makes it clear that this argument is wrong at least for the corals on Christmas Isl. Healthy environmental conditions are very important for the survival of corals Knowlton said. For information about

please refer to: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19169-y

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