Research shows that protecting ‘warm reefs’ is key to saving coral reefs

Coral reefs can adapt to climate change if given the opportunity to evolve, according to a study by Coral Reef Alliance, Rutgers University, University of Washington and other institutions.

The recent study, published in the journal Nature ecology and evolutionfinds that coral reefs can evolve and adapt to the effects of climate change, but only if we protect sufficient diversity of coral reefs, especially with respect to temperatures.

“Evolution occurs when corals that have already adapted to new environmental conditions reproduce with corals that have not yet adapted,” said Malin Pinsky, associate professor at Rutgers and co-author of the study. . “As ocean temperatures rise, we need to keep corals in warmer waters healthy and protected so they can reproduce and spread their heat tolerance to other coral reef areas.”

The study advocates a conservation approach that protects coral reefs at local, regional and global scales, in a way that allows heat tolerance to spread.

The study authors said that if humanity takes quick and effective action to keep coral reefs locally healthy and tackle climate change, coral reef ecosystems could recover over the course of the year. of the next century and prosper in the future.

“The best part about these results is that they underscore the importance of our actions at the local level – we don’t have to sit back and watch coral reefs suffer as our climate changes,” Madhavi said. Colton, lead author of the study. and former Executive Director of the Coral Reef Alliance. “This study provides guidance on how to design local conservation solutions that will have real and lasting impacts well into the future.”

Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the earth’s surface, yet they are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet. Home to around 25% of all marine life, coral reefs support around one billion people with food, income and coastal protection. But threats to coral reefs continue to grow. Today, nearly 75% of all coral reefs are threatened by climate change and localized human activities.

Scientists predict that 99% of coral reefs will be lost by the end of this century without concerted efforts to protect them.

“We simply cannot afford to lose coral reefs, said Helen Fox, director of conservation science at the Coral Reef Alliance and contributing author of the study. “It is imperative that we do all we can to save coral reefs now, as we will face combined global economic, humanitarian and biodiversity crises if we do not.”

The study was co-authored by Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University, along with Lisa McManus, who led the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Rutgers University and is now a professor at Rutgers University. Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology and researchers from the Coral Reef Alliance, University of Washington, Stanford University, University of Queensland, University of British Columbia and The Nature Conservancy. The research was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

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Materials provided by Rutgers University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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