This new study reveals evidence that some corals are adapting to warming ocean waters — offering great hope following recent reports of coral die-offs due to rising temperatures.

Researchers observed how reefs in two Kenyan marine national parks responded to extreme temperature exposure over time. They found that 11 of the 21 coral species that they studied showed less of the destructive coral bleaching than others.

Looking at two similarly severe warming events in 1998 and 2016, Wildlife Conservation Society zoologist Tim McClanahan found that the number of pale and bleached coral colonies declined from 73% to 27%, and 96% to 60%, in the two parks with different background temperatures. About half of the most common species did not bleach strongly in 2016.

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Bleaching takes place when stressed corals discharge beneficial algae that supply energy to corals causing them to turn pale or white and often starve. Worldwide, a large percentage of coral species experienced some bleaching due to unusually warm ocean water in 2016.

McClanahan said: “Despite the many caveats and interpretation of these results, this study provides one of the first response-rate estimates for many common corals at the population level. It therefore provides a basis for future studies and improving model predictions and the types of evaluations needed to address the future health of coral reefs.”

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Global awareness continues to grow about the immediate threats facing coral reef ecosystems, which is catalyzing a global commitment to address those threats. In February, at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia, the ‘50 Reefs‘ initiative was launched by the Global Change Institute of the University of Queensland and the Ocean Agency. The initiative brings together leading ocean, climate and marine scientists to develop a list of the 50 most critical coral reefs to protect, while leading conservation practitioners are working together to establish the best practices to protect these reefs.

(Source: Wildlife Conservation Society)

Click To Spread a Reef of Good News – OR, (Photo by Tim McClanahan/WCS)

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