Source: University of California, Davis
New research published in the journal Science Advances suggests that some corals may be able to adapt to higher ocean temperatures—but only if greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control. The study, which looked at the effects of warming seas on tabletop corals in the Cook Islands, found that there are genetic variants among some corals that make them more heat tolerant.
While this could mean the population as a whole is able to adapt better to increasing temperatures, the pace of climate change suggests that the adaptation may not be rapid enough to survive long term. “These corals aren’t going to adapt at an unlimited rate,” says Rachael Bay, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Davis, and the study’s lead author. “Keeping these reefs around requires curbing emissions.”
The researchers had already pinpointed the genes that predispose certain corals to heat tolerance; the current study identified these variants at low levels in the Cook Islands’ corals. Then, using data from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, computer simulations were run to see how well these genes could be used for adaptation. The results showed that the corals could survive, but only as long as the goals of the Paris Climate Accord are met—namely keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.
The work focused on tabletop corals, and more research is needed to understand the impacts on other species.
Read more here.
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