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Friday, April 12, 2013

Coral Reefs Can Heal

James Gilmour and colleagues studied the Scott system of reefs on the edge of Western Australia’s continental shelf, which lost 70 to 90 percent of its corals to a climate-induced bleaching event back in 1998.
The researchers found that, although the corals’ reproductive abilities were [sic] by the bleaching, coral cover still increased from 9 percent to 44 percent across the entire system in just 12 years.

The team say the finding is surprising because researchers have assumed that recovery from such bleaching events depends upon the delivery of larvae from other, nearby reef systems.
But, the Scott system of reefs is located 155 miles (250 kilometers) from the mainland or any other reefs.

So, Gilmour and his team suggest that herbivorous fish, which remained abundant in the undisturbed Scott system, even after the bleaching, kept microalgae in check and allowed coralline algae to thrive.

This set of conditions in turn provided a suitable substratum upon which young corals could establish and grow.,
[sic] they claim.
The study suggests that reef systems can recover using local sources of larvae, especially when fish are plentiful and human activities, which have been shown to slow coral recovery in the past, are limited.
The article explains that "bleaching" is the breaking down of the coral's symbiotic relationship with algae that provide food for coral growth.

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