22 Feb 2016

Coral ecosystem adapts to global warming

8:32 am on 22 February 2016
The colour in the coral drained out in a matter of days following sustained high temperatures in Fiji

The colour in the coral drained out in a matter of days following sustained high temperatures in Fiji Photo: Reef Explorer Fiji Ltd

Researchers in New Caledonia have uncovered a new type of coral ecosystem that may already be genetically adapted to global warming conditions.

This has sparked fresh hope for the future survival of coral reefs, after warnings from Pacific Island leaders in recent years about the impact of climate change on these important ecosystems.

French and Australian scientists studied a mangrove area on the west coast of New Caledonia and found corals thriving in warm and acidic waters.

Associate Professor from the University of Technology in Sydney, David Sugget said the new coral ecosystem provides an undiscovered source of genetic diversity.

"What we found in New Caledonia just totally blew us away, we saw almost 30 percent coral cover within the mangrove system, which is absolutely unprecedented," he explained.

"In fact, some reefs worldwide struggle to maintain 30 percent coral cover. Within that coral cover there were at least 20 species."

David Sugget said researchers have been trying for years to figure out how to assist corals adapt to changing climate conditions and mother nature may already have provided the answer.

no caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs