Academic journal article Science and Children

Fat Helps Coral Cope with Climate Change

Academic journal article Science and Children

Fat Helps Coral Cope with Climate Change

Article excerpt

Researchers recently discovered that fat helps coral survive over the long-term.

The study offers important clues as to which coral species are most likely to withstand bleaching, repeated bouts of heat stress, as climate change warms world oceans. The researchers report that the same fat-storing coral species that showed the most resilience in a 2014 bleaching study has recovered more fully in the following year, compared with other species that stored less fat.

"It has become more urgent than ever to know how coral can survive annual bleaching, one of the major threats to coral reefs today," says Verena Schoeph, lead author of the study.

Corals are animals that live in symbiosis with algae, and when stressed, they flush the algae from their cells and take on a pale, or "bleached," appearance. Bleached coral are more susceptible to storm damage and disease. Healthy corals get their day-to-day energy from sugar that the algae make through photosynthesis. For growth, healing, and reproduction, they eat a diet that includes zooplankton. During bleaching, their nutritional state is thrown out of balance.

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"Bleaching will significantly change the future of coral reefs, with heat-sensitive coral unable to recover," says Andrea Grottoli, principal investigator of the study. …

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