Oceans Help Tiny Corals Escape Heat

Oceans Help Tiny Corals Escape Heat

Coral on Australia's Great Berrier Reef: Larvae from here travel far on the currents Image: Steve Evans from Citizen of the World via Wikimedia Commons

Climate change is only one of the risks that coral larvae have to face – but those which do survive its effects can improve the prospects for mature reefs.

Scientists in the UK and the US have found that coral larvae are capable of travelling very long distances before becoming part of a reef.

The discovery, based on research using a computer model to simulate how the young corals disperse in the world’s oceans, breaks new ground: until now nobody had known how far they could move.

The researchers were surprised to find that some of the larvae may cross entire oceans, occasionally apparently crossing the 5,000 km of open sea which separate eastern Pacific corals from those on the islands of the central Pacific.

The study, “Modeling dispersal and connectivity of broadcast spawning corals at the global scale”, by researchers from the universities of Bristol and Miami, is published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. The team says its work will help to predict how coral reef distributions may change in response to changing oceans.

Coral reefs are in fact colonies made up of huge numbers of individual corals, anemone-like animals which begin life as tiny, free-floating larvae about the size of the full-stop at the end of this sentence.

The reefs are often a valuable cultural and economic resource in many of the world’s poorest countries, harbouring a diverse marine community as important in its way as that of the tropical rain forests.

Marine ecology

But many reefs are under increasing threat from a range of pressures, including human activity, natural disturbance and climate change. How corals will respond to these changes will depend, in part, on how far the young coral travel on the currents.

Sally Wood, a PhD student at the University of Bristol and one of the study’s authors, said: “Dispersal is an extremely important process for corals.  As they are attached to the sea floor as adults, the only way they can escape harmful conditions or replenish damaged reefs is by releasing their young to the mercy of the ocean currents.”a

Running The Gauntlet

So where the larvae end up is important for reef conservation. But tracking the movement of the tiny larvae in the open oceans is impossible.

“This is where computer simulation comes in”, Wood says. ”We can use data on ocean currents to predict where larvae released from a certain location, such as the Great Barrier Reef, will end up.”

For the first time the researchers have recreated the paths followed by the larvae worldwide. They say that most probably settle close to home, but that a few make it much further.

Professor Claire Paris, of the University of Miami, said: “These individuals will be really important as they are thought to contribute to species persistence on vulnerable isolated reefs, as well as range shifts in response to climate change.”

The model the researchers used captures just the start of the larval journey to survival, and further work is going ahead to complete the story.

This will involve improving the model, first by incorporating the effects of increased temperature on how quickly the larvae develop and how long they can survive, as global warming affects them. The team will also use the model to predict future dispersal patterns.

But difficult environmental conditions along the way or at the corals’ destination, the “wall of mouths” awaiting them at the reef face, and fierce competition for the space to grow may all mean that, even if they survive the long ocean crossing, they may not survive to reproduce. – Climate News Network

Coral Reefs & Climate Change

How do we save the most diverse habitats in our oceans? Coral reefs could become extinct by 2050 due to pollution and climate change. This nature video was released just ahead of the landmark Copenhagen summit on climate change in order to draw attention to the plight of these fragile ecosystems. Sadly, the summit ended in failure – and the future of our reefs is still at risk.

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
ug83qrfw
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.