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Corals Seeking Shelter from the Storm of Acidification & Bleaching

Paper Reviewed
Yates, K.K., Rogers, C.S., Herlan, J.J., Brooks, G.R., Smiley, N.A. and Larson, R.A. 2014. Diverse coral communities in mangrove habitats suggest a novel refuge from climate change. Biogeosciences 11: 4321-4337.

Worried that the world's coral reefs may be threatened by the "twin evils" of CO2-induced ocean acidification and heat-induced coral bleaching that are predicted by the world's climate alarmists to result from mankind's continued burning of fossil fuels, Yates et al. (2014) describe - in a paper published in Biogeosciences - how they identified a type of coral refuge, as it were, where corals are able to tolerate both of these "threats" to their existence. More specifically, they report how they studied what they call "the first natural, non-reef coral refuge from thermal stress and ocean acidification," in the course of which endeavor they identified a number of what they refer to as "resiliency factors."

Focusing on beachfront mangrove communities of Hurricane Hole at St. John, the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they say that "scleractinian corals are growing attached to and under mangrove prop roots," the six scientists measured "diurnal and seasonal variations in temperature, salinity, photosynthetically active radiation, and seawater chemistry," while they characterized substrate parameters, examined water circulation patterns, and "quantified incidences of coral bleaching, mortality and recovery for two major reef-building corals - Colpophyllia natans and Diploria labyrinthiformis - growing in mangrove-shaded and exposed (unshaded) areas."

In reporting the fruits of their labors at the conclusion of their study, Yates et al. write that "key resiliency factors for mangrove-coral habitats include (1) high diversity and variable response of coral species to climate change stressors, (2) heterogeneity of benthic community composition, processes and proximity of different habitat types, (3) hydrographic conditions that amplify biogeochemical effects on seawater chemistry and promote chemical characteristics that support coral growth, and (4) exposure to variable water temperatures and physical shading of corals from solar radiation."

Last of all, in commenting on the significance of their Hurricane Hole findings, Yates et al. say "this previously undocumented refuge for corals provides evidence for adaptation of coastal organisms and ecosystem transition due to recent climate change." And they thus conclude that "identifying and protecting other natural, non-reef coral refuges is critical for sustaining corals and other reef species into the future."

Posted 14 January 2015