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August 2023

Some Coral Reefs become more tolerant of warmer ocean

Globally, rising ocean temperatures are causing damage to Coral Reefs. However, a new study published in Nature suggests that Coral Reefs in the Pacific Ocean can adapt to temperature increases.

That could mean less damage from coral bleaching in the future, according to scientists, if ocean warming is contained.

University of Newcastle researchers delved into a coral reef system near Palau, an island nation in the western Pacific Ocean.

"We knew that Coral Reefs can increase their thermal tolerance over time through acclimatization, genetic adaptation or shifts in the structure of the reef system. But we knew very little about the rate at which this happens," said co-author and coral reef ecologist James Guest.

coral reefs

Building tolerance

Palau's coral reefs are known for their biodiversity, which led the scientists to suspect great potential for heat tolerance.

They examined historical bleaching and temperature fluctuations since the 1980s. Based on that, the team developed models predicting different coral bleaching scenarios for Palau's reefs. They found that coral reefs can indeed build up their heat tolerance over time.

In the best scenario, that is, if the heat tolerance of coral reefs increases at the fastest possible rate over the next century, the impact of coral bleaching could be significantly mitigated.

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