“Many warm-tolerant corals have less complex body shapes and thus offer lower habitat complexity. These coral reefs will be used by fewer fish (and other) species.”Amanda Bates, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia“Due to the sedentary nature and narrow tolerance range for environmental conditions of corals, reef ecosystems are highly vulnerableto acute stressors, and may change rapidly in their structure and functioning. They are thus expected to be highly vulnerable to future climatic changes,” explains Mehdi Adjeroud, a co-author of the study and senior researcher at the IRD.
Species of the genus Porites are among these “winners”, Adjeroud says. In contrast, species of the genus Acropora will probably decline in many Pacific reefs, as already observed in the Caribbean.
Coral reefs are a key component for marine biodiversity, providing food and shelter for thousands of reef-dwelling organisms. They also provide coastal protection and serve the needs of 500 million people worldwide through economic, social and aesthetic goods and services.
With this discovery, scientists are able to focus on understanding the biology of heat-resistant coral reef species and to use this knowledge towards conservation of other dwindling species, Amanda Bates, a marine ecologist with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in the University of Tasmania, Australia, tells SciDev.Net.
Bates, who has been studying heat-resistant marine life in the Great Barrier Reef, suggests “pre-adapting” species to climate change. This means rearing warm-tolerant genotypes or moving species to warmer areas to allow the natural selection of the most tolerant genotypes and species.
“Many warm-tolerant corals have less complex body shapes and thus offer lower habitat complexity. These coral reefs will be used by fewer fish (and other) species,” she says.