Some Coral Species might be More Resilient to Climate Change than Previously Thought
Published:01 Mar.2024    Source:Oregon State University

Some coral species can be resilient to marine heat waves by "remembering" how they lived through previous ones, research by Oregon State University scientists suggests. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, also contains evidence that the ecological memory response is likely linked to the microbial communities that dwell among the corals. The findings, published today in Global Change Biology, are important because coral reefs, crucial to the functioning of planet Earth, are in decline from a range of human pressures including climate change, said the study's lead author, Alex Vompe.


It is vital to understand how quickly reefs can adapt to ever more frequent, repeated disturbances such as marine heat waves. The microbiomes living within their coral hosts might be a key component of rapid adaptation. Heat waves are likely to increase in frequency and severity because of climate change. Slowing down the rate of coral cover and species loss is a major conservation goal, and predicting and engineering heat tolerance are two important tools.


Knowing the role microbes play in adaptation can inform coral gardening and planting efforts, Vompe said. A deeper understanding of the microbial processes, and the organisms responsible for ecological memory, can also aid in developing probiotics and/or monitoring protocols to assess and act on the quality of ecological memory of individual coral colonies.