The ability of coral reefs in the Arabian Gulf to survive in exceptionally high temperatures will provide important scientific insights for the future of coral reefs throughout the world, scientists from New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the University of Southampton at the National Oceanography Centre (NOCS), UK, said.
Coral reefs thrive at a temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius, and even slight warming can result in mortality; yet those in the Arabian Gulf are able to withstand temperature of 36 degrees Celsius.
NYUAD and NOCS are collaborating to develop a more robust picture of how extreme temperatures impact coral communities in the region, and to better understand the mechanisms that allow these corals to survive in relatively hostile environmental conditions.
Research published this week in the scientific journal, Marine Pollution Bulletin, has found that the prevalent algae species found in Gulf corals are a “generalist” type also found in other climates, not the “thermo-tolerant” strains previously believed to help corals survive the region’s high temperatures.
“Corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae that live within their tissue and provide them with food. There are many groups of such algae out there, and some are considered more tolerant of high temperatures than others. What this recent collaborative research has shown is that Gulf corals are dominated by algae that were not previously thought to be tolerant of thermal stress,” Dr John Burt, head of Marine Biology Laboratory at NYUAD, explained.
“We see that the algae are indeed special in Gulf corals, but in a way that we did not expect,” said Dr Joerg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at NOCS.