On a High Note: New Hope for Coral Reefs

On a High Note: New Hope for Coral Reefs

A new study from Nature shows two reef-building coral species from Oahu, Hawaii are coping and surviving in the face of climate change. Coral reefs are fragile marine ecosystems, highly susceptible to water temperature changes and mass bleaching events. After devastating marine heatwaves have resulted in the death of "over a third of the corals on Hawaii's coral reefs in 2014 and 2015," the study provides tangible hope for ecosystem recovery.

Researchers placed coral tanks off the coast of Oahu's Coconut Island to simulate natural ocean conditions as much as possible. According to National Geographic, "for 22 months, the researchers subjected some corals to 2 degrees Celsius of warming, some to acidified water, and some to both changes." The results showed many of the corals in the study actually thriving in these warmer conditions. Two of the corals studied, finger and lobe corals, "are found throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and their ability to survive could be a sign that coral reefs in the future might be able to rebound from the brink of collapse."

The implications from this research shows that "with enough time to adapt to their surroundings, some corals may survive the stressful conditions wrought by climate change," says Alan Friedlander, the director of the Fisheries Ecology Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai'i and Chief Scientist and Director of Research for Last Wild Places, a program of the National Geographic Society. He adds, "coral reefs can survive and even thrive into the future if we can curb carbon dioxide emissions and manage local stressors like overfishing, sedimentation, and pollution."

Netflix: Sir David Attenborough On The Devastating Truth About Coral Reefs, June 8, 2021.

Mongabay: Can we save coral reefs?, March 5, 2022.

NBC: The Impact of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs, May 1, 2020.