Coral growing in the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba can tolerate rising sea temperatures, which means it could be safe from bleaching due to climate change, according to a Swiss and Israeli study. Amy Pollock has more.
This coral in the Gulf of Aqaba could beat climate change. Scientists from Switzerland and Israel collected specimens and subjected them to extreme stress... Including warmer and more acidic water - the conditions the coral is likely to face in the future. They found that the coral grew faster than in its usual environment (SOUNDBITE) (English) EPFL RESEARCHER, THOMAS KRUEGER, SAYING: "Most of the variables that we measured such as energy metabolism or building a skeleton were actually improved, which suggests actually that these corals are living under suboptimal temperatures right now and might be better prepared for future ocean warming." This could be good news as warming oceans destroy the world's reefs in a process known as bleaching - when coral expels its living algae. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SWISS FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY(EPFL)/UNIVERSITY OF LAUSANNE (UNIL) PROFESSOR, ANDERS MEIBOM, SAYING: "The main problem is global warming. Water temperatures are rising, they're rising fast and this is stressing the corals to the point where they die." The researchers think the Gulf of Aqaba coral is descended from thermal-tolerant reefs that colonised the Red Sea after the end of the last Ice Age. But they also warn of other environmental dangers that could threaten the hardy strain. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY/INTERUNVERSITY INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCES, MAOZ FINE, SAYING: "Local disturbances such as oil pollution, nutrients from sea farms, fish farms, herbicides from gardening may reduce the exceptionally high thermal tolerance of the Gulf of Aqaba reefs." The researchers hope the Gulf of Aqaba coral could be used to reseed dying reefs elsewhere.