Coral

Schools of planktivorous reef fishes strip the water of plankton, underpinning "sweet spots" of fish biomass production in tropical oceans.
Schools of planktivorous reef fishes strip the water of plankton, underpinning "sweet spots" of fish biomass production in tropical oceans.

Offshore plankton responsible for "sweet spots" at reefs

Plankton and plankton-eating fish play an important part in the productivity of tropical reefs by igniting "sweet spots" of abundance, according to a new study by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) and Research Hub for Coral Reef Ecosystem Functions at James Cook University (JCU).

A new approach to enhance coral resilience comprise of selective sexual propagation, coral probiotics and environmental hardening, to enhance coral’s stress resilience and allow reefs to regrow under changed environmental conditions.
A new approach to enhance coral resilience comprise of selective sexual propagation, coral probiotics and environmental hardening, to enhance coral’s stress resilience and allow reefs to regrow under changed environmental conditions.

Restoring coral to health

Corals are able to respond to changes in their environment through acclimation (the physiological process of becoming accustomed to a new condition) and adaptation and researchers believe natural populations may already be adapting to increasing sea surface temperatures.

A young coral colony (Acropora recruit) on the surface of a reef on the Great Barrier Reef.
A young coral colony (Acropora recruit) on the surface of a reef on the Great Barrier Reef.

Recovery of coral reefs

Understanding the recovery dynamics of corals is paramount to enabling the effective management of coral reefs. While detailed mechanistic models provide insight into reef recovery patterns, colony scale monitoring is not viable for reefs over a large geographical extent, such as the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

Scientists are 3D printing calcium carbonate surfaces that corals can grow on.
Scientists are 3D printing calcium carbonate surfaces that corals can grow on.

Using 3D printing to restore coral reefs

A team of scientists at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology are applying innovative approaches to 3D printing solutions in a bid to restore depleted coral reefs.

Instead of using synthetic or hybrid materials, they have developed a new approach called 3D CoraPrint, which uses an eco-friendly and sustainable calcium carbonate photo-initiated (CCP) ink that they also developed.

Soft coral, cup coral, sponges and ascidians from Komodo National Park
Soft coral, cup coral, sponges and ascidians from Komodo National Park

Coral reef biodiversity predicted to shuffle, not decline

Rather than causing a collapse of biodiversity, the dual stressors of ocean warming and acidification could instead lead to significant changes in the relative abundance of species, resulting in a shuffling of coral reef community structure, according to a new study by researchers from University of Hawai'i.

Sprawling coral reefs are complex ecosystems that are teeming with life and most of this biodiversity consists of tiny organisms living deep within the three-dimensional reef matrix.

Great Barrier Reef corals (Kyle Taylor / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)
Great Barrier Reef corals (Kyle Taylor / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Deciphering the corals' scents

Last December, marine biologist Caitlin Lawson made her way to the Great Barrier Reef.

Like countless others, she was there for the annual spawning of the corals. However, she was armed, not with expensive photographic equipment, but small plastic containers rigged with tubing.

Her mission? To collect the gaseous chemicals released by the corals (as well as their algal and bacterial symbionts) before, during and after the spawning event.

Corals in the Pacific Ocean
Corals in the Pacific Ocean

Coral count leads to reassessment of extinction threat

There are currently about half a trillion corals in the Pacific. Of the species studied, two-thirds of the coral species have population sizes exceeding 100 million colonies, while 20 percent of the species have population sizes that are more than a billion colonies.

“We need to know the abundance of a species to assess its risk of extinction,” said lead author Andy Dietzel from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (Coral CoE at JCU).

Natural bleaching susceptibility is manifested in the biochemistry of both the coral and its algal symbiont.

Unravelling how some corals resist bleaching

Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa have been uncovering clues as to why some corals bleach while others are resistant, information that could help reefs better weather warming waters in the future.

The team analysed the biochemistry of corals using mass spectrometers to understand what set resistant corals apart from susceptible ones. The scientists found that two different communities of algae lived within the corals. Inside the algae cells were compounds known as lipids.

Help protect the Coral Reefs

Our coral reefs are now under threat not only from the global warming, pollution and exploitation but also by the conduct of divers in these sensitive areas. The reefs are now calling for our protection both when we dive and as contributors to the ongoing struggle to preserve these unique ecosystems for future generations.