Warming no threat to coral

Discussing: Bauman, A.G., Baird, A.H. and Cavalcante, G.H. 2011. Coral reproduction in the world's warmest reefs: southern Persian Gulf (Dubai, United Arab Emirates). Coral Reefs 30: 405-413.


The authors write that "coral assemblages in the Persian Gulf (24-30°N) experience the highest annual variability in water temperatures of any coral reefs (Kinsman, 1964; Sheppard, 1988; Sheppard et al., 2000)," noting that sea surface temperatures there "can fluctuate annually from winter lows <12°C to summer highs >36°C (Sheppard et al., 1992; Sheppard, 1993)." And they thus suggest that "understanding coral reproductive biology in the Gulf may provide clues as to how corals may cope with global warming."

What was done

Bauman et al. examined six locally common coral species on two shallow reef sites in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2008 and 2009, in order to investigate their patterns of reproduction, focusing primarily on the timing and synchrony of spawning.

What was learned

The three researchers report that the reproductive biology of the six coral species in the southern Persian Gulf "appears to be well adapted to extreme annual environmental fluctuations" and is "remarkably similar to conspecifics elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific (Baird et al., 2009a,b)," adding that "the adaptive capacity of corals in the Persian Gulf is likely facilitated by a combination of short-term acclimation in individuals during acute environmental conditions (e.g., recurrent bleaching events) and long-term adaptation among coral populations to chronic environmental conditions (e.g., extreme temperatures)."

What it means

In concluding their analysis of their data, Bauman et al. say their work "confirms that corals are capable of reproductive activities under extreme environmental conditions," as has also been found to be the case by Coles and Fadlallah (1991) and Coles and Brown (2003). Hence, they state that "coral populations can survive and proliferate in extreme conditions that are projected to occur in many other regions of the world by the end of this century," buttressing their claim with the statement that "the recovery of these coral assemblages following mortality induced by a number of recent temperature-related bleaching events (1996, 1998 and 2002) suggests these assemblages are also resilient to extreme fluctuations in water temperature," additionally citing in this regard the work of Riegl (1999, 2003) and Burt et al. (2008).


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