Red Sea coral resilient to climate change

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Red Sea coral resilient to climate change

May 06, 2020 - 11:41
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Despite sea temperatures rising faster than the global average rate, no mass bleaching events have occurred in the northern Red Sea.

Corals in the bay of Aqaba, Red Sea

In recent decades, many coral reefs around the world have been suffering tremendous damages as a result of global climate change. However, in the northern Red Sea, the situation seems to be somewhat different: Research has shown that the coral reefs in both Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat and Gulf of Suez are unusually resilient to climatic changes. Corals in the northern Red Sea regularly experience 4.0˚C - 6.5˚C daily changes in seawater temperature and seasonal variations that exceed 29˚C.

Recently, Israeli scientists found that the northern Red Sea corals are not only adaptable to changing environmental conditions but also continue to produce offspring at the same rate and quality, which could ensure reef survival for many years to come, provided we humans do not interfere.

How come?

The new study conducted by Prof. Maoz Fine of the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, proposed that millennia of natural selection in the form of a thermal barrier at the southernmost end of the Red Sea have selected coral genotypes that are less susceptible to thermal stress in the northern Red Sea.

Further scrutiny of these species and the mechanisms by which they are able to thrive is ongoing, as they hold the potential to benefit other coral communities as a resilient transplant species and model for understanding coral survivability in extreme environmental conditions.

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