Corals live within a limited temperature range. As such, they are extremely vulnerable to changes in temperature. During the heat of late summer, sea temperatures that warm even a fraction of a degree above normal temperatures can cause corals to lose the symbiotic single cell algae that live within their tissues providing them with food. When this occurs over a prolonged period, these corals appear “bleached” white. Severe bleaching events cal kill corals. Not all corals bleach under the same conditions, however, and some recover more than others after bleaching. Because climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of bleaching events, knowing how corals respond can help us manage and restore reefs.
In the project, we are examining corals living under different temperature conditions. This will help us determine if these corals and their symbiotic algae are adapted to specific environmental conditions. We are also conducting experiments to see if some genetic strains or coral or algae are able to acclimate to a range of conditions. This information will help us protect sites that may be adapted to survive under various climate change scenarios. It will also help to determine which coral strains are best suited for reef rehabilitation.
- University of Miami
- The Nature Conservancy
- Bahamas National Trust