Source: Florida Insitude of Technology
A new study has concluded that coral reefs at or near the equator are affected less by increasing ocean temperatures than those elsewhere around the globe. The work is based on field observations from a two-decade-long global survey of over 3,500 coral study sites that was led by Reef Check founder and former director Gregor Hodgson.
The research, which was just published in the journal Nature Communications, was undertaken by Ph.D. student Shannon Sully along with Professor Rob van Woesik from the Florida Institute of Technology, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of California at Santa Barbara and non-governmental organization Reef Check.
“We found that the reefs near the equator were less affected by bleaching than elsewhere, despite similar thermal-stress levels at equatorial sites,” said Deron Burkepile, a co-author from UCSB. Professor van Woesik added: “We are uncertain why equatorial reefs are more tolerant of recent temperature stress, but we do know that we must protect these equatorial reefs—and reefs everywhere—from other disturbances, lest we lose coral reefs that protect coastal inhabitants from storm waves and help feed millions of people worldwide.”
In addition, the scientists found that it took higher temperatures to bleach corals over the past decade than it did 20 years ago. They suggest that this is likely because of the decline in temperature-sensitive corals during past bleaching events, meaning that more-resilient populations remain.
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