Corals Are Fighters That Can Cope With Climate Change: Study

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
September 7, 2021 Updated: September 7, 2021

Corals are able to cope with climate change and changing sea temperatures better than previously thought, a new study found.

Published on Monday, the study led by James Cook University’s (JCU) Coral Centre of Excellence found that coral is good at passing on adaptive traits onto new generations, such as genes for living in warmer sea temperatures.

“Our findings show that corals are fighters. They are good at passing beneficial traits onto the next generation and the next—helping them cope with the stresses they face,” lead author Kevin Bairos-Novak said. “And this is what may help them navigate the next few decades better than we previously thought.”

The study analysed 95 trait measures across 19 species of reef-building coral.

Bairos-Novak said coral that were better at surviving and resisting bleaching stress “should be good” at passing those advantages to their offspring.

Great Barrier Reef
Assorted reef fish swim above a staghorn coral colony as it grows on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns, Australia on Oct. 25, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/REUTERS)

However, the authors warn that the sea temperatures are currently rising too fast for coral to adapt to.

“The damage that we are already seeing to coral reefs from climate change tells us that the current rates of change are too fast for coral adaptation to keep up,” co-author and JCU Associate Professor Mia Hoogenboom said.

Co-author Professor Sean Connolly from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute said if people could slow the rate of sea temperature change, many coral species would have a chance at adapting to warmer temperatures.

Former JCU professor and marine geophysicist Peter Ridd told The Epoch Times that while this was just another one of many papers that demonstrated how highly adaptable corals are, it was good to see one coming from JCU.

Ridd was fired from the university after questioning the reliability and quality assurance systems of fellow scientists.

He also pushed back against mainstream scientific claims that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger due to climate change.

“As usual they go on about how too much climate change will still kill the reef but … they should get some credit for being a little less pessimistic [in this new study],” Ridd said.

The study comes after the Great Barrier Reef was kept off UNESCO’s “in danger” list of world heritage sites until the next vote in Feb. 2022.

Australian officials heavily disputed the recommendation that was made by a China-chaired UN committee, arguing it was a politically motivated decision.

Rebecca Zhu