Ocean Science - Saving Coral Reefs

I love the mind of great scientists and we should be thankful for those who spend their time and energy researching techniques to save our precious oceans.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology have been working on the protective properties of soft coral tissue, which proved resilient when exposed to declining oceanic pH levels. Their study published in "PLOS One, provides insight into the changing face of coral reefs threatened by dropping oceanic pH levels and may  provide a new approach toward preserving the harder, calcified reef foundations."

Scientists have uncovered the protective properties of soft coral tissue. Credit: © cbpix / Fotolia

Reefs and environmental change

Professor Yehuda Benayahu's TAU laboratory is home to one of the world's only soft coral research centers. Prof. Benayahu says, "the rise in temperature and ocean acidification are the main concerns of environmental change."

Acidification is caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere due to global change, fossil fuel burning, and other pollution. These emissions dissolve in the ocean, resulting in a slight lowering of oceanic pH levels. This produces changes to ocean water's carbon content, destroying the calcification of reef-building stony coral.























At first, the researchers examined the effects of lowered pH levels on living colonies of soft corals. Observing no significant effects on their physiology, Yasmin Gabay thought it would be interesting to consider the effects of acidification on the skeleton of these soft corals.

After conducting further studies to see if the soft coral tissue could withstand the pH levels at continual rise over the next 100 years, Yasmin Gabay says, "we found that the soft coral's tissue may indeed protect the skeleton from declining pH levels and the organism's internal environment apparently has a mechanism that protects against the acidic conditions."

Reefs act as wave breakers, protect against floods, erosion, hurricanes, and typhoons. While alive they also provide habitats for thousands of living organisms, from sea urchins to clams, algae to fish.

The researchers are currently studying the potential effects of soft coral displacement of stony coral species and the subsequent ramifications for reefs and I do hope the results of their findings offer hope for reef system recovery and the future health of our oceans!




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