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Saturday, August 15, 2020

‘Breakthrough’ in the fight against massive coral mortality: heat-resistant algae

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Australian researchers may have found a way to combat the massive death of coral reefs, known as coral bleaching. This is very important, because global warming threatens to destroy a large part of the coral. The habitat of an estimated quarter of marine life is thus at stake.

In the laboratory, scientists have managed to keep coral alive in warmer water by making the algae it depends on for food resistant to higher temperatures. They call it a breakthrough and published their findings in the scientific journal last week Science Advances.

Coral suffers from climate change

Coral bleaching occurs when the seawater temperature rises. Due to climate change, the sea water is also getting warmer and especially in the summer the reefs suffer from extreme heat.

The coral then loses the algae with which it lives in a symbiotic relationship. The algae provide nutrients to the coral organisms. Without algae, the coral dies and only the transparent coral tissue remains. Due to the remaining white ‘skeleton’, the reef looks as if it has faded.

Large parts of the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian northeast coast have been affected by bleaching in recent years. The country has made hundreds of millions available to prevent further destruction of the World Heritage.

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