Endangered corals show encouraging resilience

Endangered corals show encouraging resilience

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A recent study reveals that endangered elkhorn coral off the coast of Florida demonstrates resilience through natural adaptation, offering hope for coral reef preservation.

Health profiles of the elkhorn coral greatly differed among five examined areas, but the coral samples in the Dry Tortugas thrived compared to all the other sites

In the face of daunting challenges to our planet's coral reefs, a glimmer of hope emerges from Florida's coastal waters.

Scientists from Ohio State University discovered that the endangered elkhorn coral population in the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida were highly resilient in its ability to adapt and thrive, despite adverse factors like climate change, pollution and disease outbreaks.

In their study, they observed that the coral colonies were successfully reproducing and expanding their population through a natural process called fragmentation. As portions of the coral broke off, the fragments settled in new locations and continued to grow, allowing the species to establish new colonies in otherwise challenging environments.

The site where the elkhorn coral colonies were found had a propensity for periodic upwellings in which bursts of nutrient-rich water rose up to the surface from colder, deeper waters. This subsequently created favorable conditions for the corals to thrive and reproduce.

These little pulses of extra food can make a big difference in coral survival and the things we measured are consistent with that interpretation.

Andréa Grottoli, Professor of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University

Nature's resilience

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recognized the elkhorn coral’s significance and its role in maintaining the biodiversity and health of coral reef ecosystems. In fact, the coral is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, highlighting the urgent need to protect and restore their marine habitats.

As scientists and conservationists search for solutions to preserve coral reefs, this discovery of the elkhorn coral’s resilience is a reminder of nature's ability to adapt and recover. By combining research, conservation efforts and global cooperation, there is hope that our coral reefs can continue to thrive and remain a part of our planet's marine biodiversity.

Ohio State University