Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coral Reefs Face Increasing Difficulties Recovering From Storm Damage

Date:
August 4, 2009
Source:
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Summary:
As global warming whips up more powerful and frequent hurricanes and storms, the world's coral reefs face increased disruption to their ability to breed and recover from damage. "We have found clear evidence that coral recruitment -- the regrowth of young corals -- drops sharply in the wake of a major bleaching event or a hurricane," says the lead author of the study.

As global warming whips up more powerful and frequent hurricanes and storms, the world’s coral reefs face increased disruption to their ability to breed and recover from damage.

That’s one of the findings from a new scientific study of the fate of corals in the wake of large climate-driven bleaching and storm events.

“We have found clear evidence that coral recruitment – the regrowth of young corals – drops sharply in the wake of a major bleaching event or a hurricane,” says lead author Dr Jennie Mallela of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Australian National University.

Using the island of Tobago in the Caribbean as their laboratory she and colleague Professor James Crabbe of the University of Bedfordshire, UK, backtracked to 1980 to see what had happened to the corals in the wake of nine hurricanes, tropical storms and bleaching events.

“In every case there was a sharp drop in coral recruitment following the event – often by as much as two thirds to three quarters. Not only were fewer new coral colonies formed, but also far fewer of the major reef building coral species recruited successfully.”

“This finding mirrors our modelling studies on the fringing reefs of Jamaica, and on the Meso-American Barrier reef off the coast of Belize”, says Prof. Crabbe.

Tobago lies outside the main Caribbean hurricane belt and therefore is more typical of the circumstances of most coral reefs around the world. Nevertheless its corals are disrupted by a major storm or bleaching every three or four years – and the frequency of this may be growing.

“Climate researchers are seeing increasing evidence for a direct relationship between global warming and rising hurricane intensity as well as frequency,” Jennie explains. “Global warming produces significant increases in the frequency of high sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and hurricane winds are strengthened by warm surface waters.”

The high temperatures cause bleaching, while the storms inflict physical destruction on the corals as well as eroding the rocky platforms they need to grow on, or burying them in sand.

“Maintaining coral reef populations in the face of large-scale degradation depends critically on recruitment – the ability of the corals to breed successfully and settle on the reef to form new colonies. Our research suggests this process is severely disrupted after one of these major events.”

If the disruption is sufficiently large it may threaten the actual survival of some of the larger and more spectacular reef building and brain corals, she says. “In the aftermath of a big storm or bleaching event, some of these important species appear not to have recruited at all.

“Healthy reefs usually have high numbers of coral recruits and juvenile corals, whereas degraded systems typically have far fewer young colonies.”

The concern is that if major storms and bleaching become more frequent as the climate warms, the ability of individual reefs to renew themselves may break down completely, Jennie says.

“While our work was carried out in the Caribbean, it has general implications for coral reefs globally, and deepens our concern as to what may happen to them as global warming advances and the world’s climate becomes more tempestuous.”

The research paper is Mallela, J., Crabbe, M.J.C., Hurricanes and coral bleaching linked to changes in coral recruitment in Tobago, and is published in the latest issue of Marine Environmental Research (2009).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Coral Reefs Face Increasing Difficulties Recovering From Storm Damage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623112119.htm>.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. (2009, August 4). Coral Reefs Face Increasing Difficulties Recovering From Storm Damage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623112119.htm
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Coral Reefs Face Increasing Difficulties Recovering From Storm Damage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623112119.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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