Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Corals That Can Fight Global Warming May One Day Help Fragile Reefs

Date:
March 5, 2007
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Global warming is threatening corals, reported Cornell's Drew Harvell at the AAAS meeting February 18. But some corals can fight diseases as temperatures rise and may provide clues in how to protect other fragile coral reefs, she said.

A Caribbean sea fan infected with aspergillosis, caused by the pathogen aspergillis. (Credit: E. Weil)
Credit: E. Weil

While humans can survive large temperature fluctuations, such species as corals are only comfortable within a 12-degree temperature range. And rising global temperatures appear to be threatening their survival, according to Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Related Articles


However, she noted in presenting a paper at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, Feb. 18, Caribbean gorgonian sea fan corals show surprising warm-weather tenacity -- they not only are somewhat temperature resilient but can also boost their cellular and enzymatic defenses to fight lethal microorganisms as temperatures rise. These abilities may someday be harnessed to help protect other fragile coral reefs, Harvell said.

The head of the Coral Disease Working Group of the Global Environmental Facility Coral Reef Targeted Research Program, Harvell describes these latest findings in detail in the March issue of the journal Oceanography. The working group is an international collaboration with stations in the Caribbean, Philippines, Australia and East Africa that seeks to understand how rising ocean temperatures (which are monitored with high-resolution satellite detectors) are related to lethal coral reef epidemics.

The warm temperatures that have been occurring worldwide as a result of global warming appear to be facilitating fatal epidemics in coral reefs across the globe, according to Harvell and her co-researchers. For example, in 2005, the Caribbean experienced unusually warm weather and a spate of coral deaths caused directly by temperature stress and indirectly by opportunistic infections contracted during the warm period.

"Below the waves, the warm temperatures triggered a series of events lethal to coral reefs: massive loss of critical symbionts, compromised immunity and ability to fight pathogens, and increased susceptibility to lethal infectious microorganisms," reported Harvell.

However, the precise connection between warmer waters and coral disease is unclear. "It is difficult to pinpoint yet how temperature stress decreases the immune response," said Harvell. "Although corals are near the base of the evolutionary tree, they are complicated animals."

The complexities arise from different levels of symbiosis within a coral, both with bacteria on the surface and algae in the interior. Moreover, the warmer waters cause increased virulence of some pathogens as well as a diminished ability of corals to fight them. But these complications can also be keys to coral reef survival.

"A first line of defense is provided by surface microorganisms … [that] produce antibiotics that can help corals fight pathogenic bacteria," reported Harvell.

However, not all corals are able to produce such defenses under thermal stress. "Some corals show unusual resilience to the double threat [of pathogens and warming seas], and we should look to these hardy corals for clues that might enhance others," said Harvell. "Other corals are more sensitive and will not survive the continued warming trend."

Yet there seems to be future promise for boosting the immunity of coral reefs, Harvell reported. Collaborators Rotem Effrony and Eugene Rosenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, have isolated viruses that can consume several bacteria that are deadly to the more sensitive corals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Susan Lang, Cornell Chronicle. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Corals That Can Fight Global Warming May One Day Help Fragile Reefs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070302171321.htm>.
Cornell University. (2007, March 5). Corals That Can Fight Global Warming May One Day Help Fragile Reefs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070302171321.htm
Cornell University. "Corals That Can Fight Global Warming May One Day Help Fragile Reefs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070302171321.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins