Corals have been dominant framework builders of reef structures for millions of years, creating habitats for a diverse community of species.
Corals have been dominant framework builders of reef structures for millions of years, creating habitats for a diverse community of species. It is well known that ocean acidification, which is intensifying as climate change progresses, is increasingly affecting coral growth. Scientists from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and the University of California have now answered some questions regarding whether and how corals can adapt to these changes by having gained important insights into the regulatory processes of coral calcification. The results have been published today in the international journal Nature Communications.
Corals fascinate amateurs and experts alike: small polyps that extract calcium carbonate from seawater and use it to build their elaborate skeletons. But climate change, with rising water temperatures and increasing ocean acidification, is changing the living conditions of corals at an unprecedented rate. Whether they can keep pace with these changes and adapt is an open question. Now researchers from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and the University of California are providing new insights with a study published today in international journal Nature Communications. For this study, which was co-financed by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung) and the US NSF, the scientists investigated the response of the stony corals Porites astreoides to low pH and high dissolved carbon content in their natural environment.
Over millions of years of their evolution, corals have experienced and survived major environmental changes. Like tree rings, their skeletons are an environmental archive that allows researchers to gain insights into the past. From the smallest differences in the chemical composition of coral skeletons, conclusions can be drawn about former environmental conditions. However, many details on the control and regulation of skeletal formation processes of corals are still unknown.
Read more at Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
Image: Coral reefs off the coast of the Mexican peninsula Yucatan near groundwater sources (Ojos). (Photo Credit: Elizabeth D. Crook)