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Coral 'adapting to warmer ocean temperatures'

Coral 'adapting to warmer ocean temperatures'
By: Sky News Posted On: August 08, 2018 View: 13

Coral 'adapting to warmer ocean temperatures'

Coral is slowly adapting to survive in increasing ocean temperatures, according to a new study.

Coral bleaching is widely considered to be a significant environmental concern directly linked to climate change.

The process effectively removes symbiotic algae - zooxanthellae - which provides coral with a source of food and its natural colour.

When bleaching occurs this makes the white coral skeleton visible through the transparent tissue giving it the appearance of having been bleached.

The recent experiments duplicate landmark trials carried out in 1970, which aimed to see the effects of increasing water temperatures on coral.

There were pronounced differences between the previous experiments and the latest study, carried out by the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

HONOLULU, HI - JANUARY 15: Fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay on January 15, 2005 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Many coral reefs are dying from water pollution (from sewage and agricultural runoff), dredging off the coast, careless collecting of coral specimens, and sedimentation. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Image: Today, coral can withstand much higher temperatures than previously thought

Coral today is able to withstand much higher temperatures than when the experiments were first conducted, the results showed.

In three of the species of Hawaiian coral that were tested bleaching occurred much later, with more coral surviving the changes.

These changes can be caused by a number of factors such as natural selection, changes to the algae or physiological changes to the coral itself.

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While these results are encouraging Dr Ku'elei Rodgers, a researcher on the project, said: "Increased bleaching tolerance may not be enough for widespread coral survival."

In order to truly safeguard coral reefs a reduction is needed in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases - which are responsible for increasing sea temperatures.

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