Friday, February 24, 2012

Are all coral created equal?

Climate change is beating on coral reefs by heating and acidifying waters everywhere. But coral isn't down for the count. According to a recent study not only can a type of coral called Porites, take the heat, that heat helps it prosper. In areas that are on average cooler than most, climate change has actually spurred the growth of Porites,which is crucial to the sustainability of the Indian Ocean. The growth has more than compensated for the projected loss due to acidification; meaning a net-gain for the reefs. 
Atmospheric carbon slugs a one-two punch right to the coral. Hotter seas not only mean more bleaching but also a loss of algae and increased acidification. Coral needs it's symbiotic relationship with algae in order to receive oxygen and other nutrients and to ultimately survive. The future of the coral reefs, which serve as centers of marine biodiversity, is a major concern .
In this study, in contrast to studies of the Great Barrier Reef, the pros of temperature are outweighing the cons of acidification. Acidification suppresses the amount of coral by reducing carbonate in the surrounding water. For the reef to continue to thrive, there must be an overall increase in calcification. Calcification is the processes by which corals use carbonate to grow and is achieved by an increase in the mass of their skeleton and the living tissues that lay upon them.

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