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Coral species may help fight global warming impact

Coral species may help fight global warming impact

Coral species may help fight global warming impact
March 4, 2007

While many coral species appear to be potentially doomed by global warming, some species may help fight the impact of climate change, in effect helping protect coral reef ecosystems, argues a Cornell University biologist.

In a paper annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco February 18, Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, reports that Caribbean gorgonian sea fan corals respond to higher temperatures by boosting their “cellular and enzymatic defenses to fight lethal microorganisms.” This response could help reduce the overall virulence of some coral pathogens in the ecosystem.

“A first line of defense is provided by surface microorganisms … [that] produce antibiotics that can help corals fight pathogenic bacteria,” Harvell is quoted as saying in a release from Cornell University. “Some corals show unusual resilience to the double threat [of pathogens and warming seas], and we should look to these hardy corals for clues that might enhance others. Other corals are more sensitive and will not survive the continued warming trend.”

High sea temperatures in the Caribbean during September and October of 2005 caused widespread bleaching — whereby corals eject the symbiotic algae that provide them with sustenance. At the time, scientists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the bleaching event was associated with outbreaks of black band disease, white plague and other ailments.

Related article

Damaged Caribbean reefs under attack. After experiencing one of the most devastating coral bleaching events on record during September and October of 2005, reefs in the Caribbean are under attack from deadly diseases according to Reuters.

This article is based on a news release from Cornell University and past articles.

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