Scientists discover way to make corals heat resistantDate: 15 May 2020 Tags: Climate Change
Scientists in Australia say they have found a way to help coral reefs fight the devastating effects of bleaching by making them more heat-resistant.
The researchers believe their findings may help in the effort to restore coral reefs, which they say are "suffering mass mortalities from marine heatwaves".
The team made the coral more tolerant to temperature-induced bleaching by bolstering the heat tolerance of its microalgal symbionts, tiny cells of algae that live inside the coral tissue.
They then exposed the cultured microalgae to increasingly warmer temperatures over a period of four years. This assisted them to adapt and survive hotter conditions.
Once the microalgae were reintroduced into coral larvae, the newly established coral-algal symbiosis was more heat-tolerant compared to the original one.
They found that the heat-tolerant microalgae are better at photosynthesis and improve the heat response of the coral animal. These exciting findings show that the microalgae and the coral are in direct communication with each other.
Climate change has reduced coral cover, and surviving corals are under increasing pressure as water temperatures rise and the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events increase.
Earlier this year, Australia's Great Barrier Reef suffered a mass bleaching event - the third in just five years. Warmer sea temperatures - particularly in February - are feared to have caused huge coral loss across it.