Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Will coral reefs disappear?

Date:
February 23, 2010
Source:
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Summary:
How vulnerable are coral reefs to climate change due to higher ocean temperatures?

Healthy reef off Fanning Island, Kribati. Will coral reefs disappear?
Credit: iStockphoto/Zeynep Mufti

Will coral reefs disappear? This is the title of a symposium presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual conference in San Diego, California. And it's a topic that should not be taken lightly.

NSERC-funded researcher Dr. Simon Donner, an assistant professor in the department of geography at the University of British Columbia, talked about the vulnerability of coral reefs to climate change due to higher ocean temperatures.

Dr. Donner studies coral bleaching. Corals get most of their energy from microscopic algae that live in their tissue. These algae are colourful and are what gives corals their vivid hue. When environmental factors go out of the range that corals are used to (such as warming water), the symbiosis between the coral and the algae breaks down and corals effectively expel the algae and turn white. The coral is then deprived of its source of energy, and dies.

Dr. Donner studies the frequency of coral bleaching events, their consequences and the link to unusually warm oceans. He says that mass coral bleaching events were thought to be extremely rare as far back as 30 years ago.

At the AAAS conference he talked about the predicted occurrence of bleaching events under different climate scenarios and, according to Dr. Donner, it doesn't look good.

"Even if we froze emissions today, the planet still has some warming left in it. That's enough to make bleaching dangerously frequent in reefs worldwide," he says.

Given the hundreds of millions of people living in the tropics who depend on coral reefs for food, income, tourism and shoreline protection, the loss of reefs is a serious issue.

"Obviously, there's an aesthetic concern because people see Finding Nemo and they're worried about what's going to happen to the world's coral reefs, but the key thing is that there are hundreds of millions of people who depend on them for their livelihood," says Dr. Donner.

However, the outlook isn't completely bleak. Dr. Donner says that no one is predicting that coral reefs will go extinct; they will continue to survive, but only in certain habitats, such as shaded areas. The reality is a general loss of coral cover and a breakdown of the physical structure of reefs.

In order to see what the future of reefs might be, Dr. Donner is pursuing fieldwork in the central equatorial Pacific, because the islands and reefs in that area are affected by repeated El Nino events. Because of this, they've experienced higher year-to-year temperature variability than other areas on the planet. Dr. Donner is studying the corals in these areas to understand how the reefs are biologically different, and how that has allowed them to persist through warm water events that would kill coral in other areas of the planet.

"It's a natural model for the future," he says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. "Will coral reefs disappear?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100221200908.htm>.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. (2010, February 23). Will coral reefs disappear?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100221200908.htm
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. "Will coral reefs disappear?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100221200908.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) 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