Daily Express

Heat barrier relief helps coral survive warm sea

- By John Ingham Environmen­t Editor

CORAL reefs may be able to survive climate change after scientists discovered they can make them heat-resistant.

They found a way to make microscopi­c algae that live inside the coral tissue cope with rising sea temperatur­es.

This helps the coral – which is made up of small animals – cope with warmer seas.

Professor Madeleine van Oppen, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Melbourne, said: “These exciting findings show that the microalgae and the coral are in direct communicat­ion with each other.

“This breakthrou­gh provides a promising and novel tool to increase the heat tolerance of corals.”

Corals suffer from bleaching triggered by heat in warmer seas. The 1,500-mile Great Barrier Reef has just had its third mass bleaching in five years. In 2016 and 2017 it lost half its corals to it.

Professor Terry Hughes, of James Cook University, spent two weeks monitoring the reef from the air. He tweeted: “I feel like an art lover wandering through the Louvre... as it burns to the ground.”

The UN’s Intergover­nmental Panel on Climate Change says most tropical coral reefs could disappear without global action to reduce emissions and limit temperatur­e rises.

A team including AIMS, Melbourne University and Australia’s national science agency made the coral more resistant to bleaching by bolstering the heat tolerance of algae living in the coral tissue.


Over four years they steadily increased the water temperatur­e in the laboratory in line with the warming of the Great Barrier Reef during summer heatwaves.

Dr Patrick Buerger, of Australia’s national science agency, said: “Our novel approach strengthen­s the heat resistance of coral by manipulati­ng its microalgae, which is a key factor in the coral’s heat tolerance. Once the microalgae were reintroduc­ed into coral larvae, the newly establishe­d coral-algal symbiosis was more heat tolerant.”

The Australian government has unveiled a £150million plan to save the Great Barrier Reef from climate change.

Methods considered include finding coral that can cope with warmer seas and then releasing its larvae on a huge scale.

Australia’s environmen­t minister Sussan Ley said: “Climate change remains the biggest threat to the world’s coral reefs.

“Australian science can lead the way in developing adaptive technologi­es to help protect the reef. This is research that could help the reef recover from bleaching.”

The findings were published in Science Advances.

 ??  ?? Warming...Australia’s Great Barrier has suffered a third mass bleaching in five years
Warming...Australia’s Great Barrier has suffered a third mass bleaching in five years

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