From: University of Texas At Austin
Published August 29, 2017 01:51 PM

Algae Fortifies Coral Reefs in Past and Present

The Great Barrier Reef, and most other large reefs around the world, owe their bulk in large part to a type of red algae that grows on corals and strengthens them. New research led by Anna Weiss, a Ph.D. candidate at The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences, has found that ancient coral reefs were also bolstered by their bond with red algae, a finding that could help scientists better understand how reefs will respond to climate change.

“Coral reefs as we know them today are a product of that long term coral-coralline algae relationship,” Weiss said. “So if we want to preserve our coral reefs, we need to pay attention to the health of coralline algae as well.”

Weiss conducted the research with Rowan Martindale, an assistant professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences. Their research was published in August in the journal PLOS ONE.

Coralline algae are a type of red algae that helps build coral reef ecosystems in a variety of ways. They encourage reef growth by attracting coral larvae; they serve as a food source for reef animals; and help patch up broken coral skeletons by growing over breaks. The most important role of the algae when it comes to reef long term growth is directly reinforcing the limestone skeletons of corals with calcite, the hard mineral that forms the algae’s skeleton. This allows coral reefs to maintain long-term structures that serve as the foundation of reef ecosystems.

Continue reading at University of Texas At Austin

Image: Lead author of the study Anna Weiss, a Ph.D. candidate in The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences, at a fossilized reef in Adnet, Austria

Image Credit: Anna Weiss

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