Evolutionary Secrets Help Red Sea Corals Withstand Heat
A resistant coral species
Global warming causes severe bleaching of coral reefs. A team of researchers from the Institute of Marine Science of Eilat are studying an astonishing variety of corals that, unlike others, resist pretty efficiently to the effects of global warming and the rise of the sea temperature. Maoz Fine and his team intervene in the Red Sea, close to the Egyptian Sinaï, South of Israel, in order to monitor the reactions of these strange and differently shaped corals. They regularly dive and take notes of their observations in order to help unlock the mystery: why is this variety, which lives in the Gulf of Aqaba, north of the Red Sea, not affected by the increase in Water temperature ? Why and How does it resist to the effect of climate change ? This coral population is particularly resistant to the temperature rise and to the acidification of marine waters, while other varieties are dying everywere around the world. The Great Barrier Reef, registered in 1981 as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, has already lost half of its corals in 30 years.
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Extensive analyzes to save coral reefs
In order to better understand the reason why this particular resist to climate change, researchers exposed them for long periods at temperatures above the ones predicted for the end of the century, and they did not bleach … According to Maoz Fine, their provenance would explain the phenomenon. They indeed originally come from the Indian Ocean and have crossed Bab el-Mandeb, strait between Djibouti and Yemen, the warmest waters of the world’s oceans. “With the passage through a very hot mass of water, a natural selection has taken place during the last 6,000 years, and only the corals that have managed to cross this mass of hot water have arrived here “Said Maoz Fine.
Nevertheless what we often believed, corals are animals that live in symbiosis with an alga. Both serve and help one another, The coral harbors the seaweed which feeds it in return. But when the temperature rises too much, their mutually beneficial agreement ends, the seaweed leaves its landlord and lets it die! Then, the balance of the ecosystem is broken! It is therefore essential to preserve it. This discovery brings back hope as we now know that some corals are leading the fight against global warming. But we must not forget that other dangers lie ahead, pollution, pesticides, fertilizers …
Maoz Fine is appealing to all the countries bordering the Red Sea to safeguard this little corner of the sea, but it is not won because only Jordan and Egypt are at peace with Israel, while Saudi Arabia Has no official relations with the Hebrew State.