Study shows corals can survive even with rising emissions

A NEW study from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has found that corals can survive the early stages of their development, even under tough conditions that rising carbon emissions may impose on them.

Principal research fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University Dr Andrew Baird was part of the research team for the study.

"The prevailing view is that ocean acidification will act like a toxin to corals, but we were unconvinced by results from previous work on young corals and ocean acidification so we tested critical early stages of development in several coral species at several different acid (or 'pH') concentrations of seawater," Dr Baird said.

"Our results showed no clear response to increasing ocean acidification in any of the stages, or for any of the coral species.

"In fact, in only one of nine experiments did we get the response expected if CO2 was acting like a toxin. More often than not we found no effect."

By bubbling CO2 through seawater the research team was able to simulate future levels of ocean acidification expected to result from rising human carbon emissions.

They tested the success of embryo development, the survival of coral larvae and finally their success in settling on coral reefs.

However the study does not discount the possibility that coral larvae may suffer other ill-effects from increasing ocean acidification, for example, their swimming speeds may slow down, but because coral larvae typically settle on the reef two or three weeks after birth it is unlikely that these effects will have a major impact on the survival or settlement of coral larvae.

Dr Baird says that while the long-term outlook for corals may be gloomy, this research highlights the fact that not all life stages of corals will be equally affected.



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