Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Scientists Testing Stress on Corals

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Scientists Testing Stress on Corals

Article excerpt

USING a world-first scientific discovery, Australian researchers are developing a stress test for coral, to measure how coral reefs are being impacted by pressures from climate change and human activity.

The scientists have found hemoglobin genes in the microalgae which live symbiotically with coral, which may provide a read- out on how stressed a particular coral is a and how likely it is to bleach and die.

Coral bleaching occurs when the symbiotic algae abandon the coral due to changes happening in the environment such as high water temperatures or pollution and, deprived of their main energy source, the corals whiten and potentially perish. Bleaching has hit more than half of the Great Barrier Reef in recent years, as well as the majority of coral reefs around the world.

aDespite the importance of coral reefs to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, we still do not clearly understand how well they can cope with changed conditions of climate and environment they now face,a explains Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS).

aIn exploring the genetic make-up of both corals and their symbiotic algae, we have found hemoglobin-like proteins that respond rapidly and dramatically to temperature and nutrient stresses,a says lead author Dr Nela Rosic of The University of Queensland.

Most people know hemoglobin as the red material that carries oxygen around the body in our blood supply, but in plants and algae it serves a slightly differ- ent function, mopping up spare oxygen and toxic gases before they can harm the plant. In corals and their algae it may also form a vital part of their day-night energy storage system.

aWhen the corals undergo temperature stress, this system goes into overdrive and hemoglobin genes are expressed at a higher level. …

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