Last week, we had published an article that described the serious bleaching of the coral reefs that have been taking place in the Great Barrier Reef as a result of rising sea temperatures.
Other data shows that the case of Australia is far from being an isolated case. A 2017 study by the American Meteorological Society estimated that between 2014 and 2017, 75% of the world’s reefs have gone through bleaching.
However, the coral reefs of the Red Sea have proved exceptionally resilient. Although the sea temperature has been rising in the Red Sea, there have been no reports of massive coral bleaching of any sort.
In fact, researchers believe that some coral species native to this region may flourish in higher temperatures. These sturdy corals may become the last bastion of hope for researchers amidst grim forecasts that coral reefs may completely disappear by the end of this century.
One of the most notable researchers on this topic is Maoz Fine. Fine had expected that the coral reefs in his home country of Israel would be as damaged as those in Australia where he had studied the Great Barrier Reef.
To his surprise, he found no significant changes in the number of healthy coral reefs in the Red Sea. This led him to what eventually became the Red Sea Simulator. The RSS is a series of aquariums with the purpose of understanding the secrets behind the corals that withstood rising temperatures.
By adjusting different variables including temperature, researchers are studying how different corals react to environmental changes in their natural habitats.
In particular, researchers are studying the threshold after which coral bleaching begins. Moreover, they are studying the exact ways in which corals return to their original colors after a serious bleaching occurs.
To the surprise of many, the corals not only proved resilient but also even flourished as the water temperature increased. They produced twice as much oxygen and a 50% increase in productivity, unlike many other corals that sent stress signals.
Although it is yet to be confirmed, researchers believe that the secret lies in the genes of these particular corals. These corals are thought to be of a more southern origin where water temperatures were always higher. The current hypothesis is that these corals retained genes that help them cope with high temperatures even though they moved to a cooler region.
While much more research is needed to confirm this theory, it does provide a ray of hope for many. Share with us your thoughts on this story in the comments, and be sure to follow us on Facebook for more news like this one.