Good news from NOAA: coral reefs can adapt to warming

corals. The picture was taken in Papua New Guinea

corals. The picture was taken in Papua New Guinea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NOAA is dialing back the alarm a bit with realizations that nature has equipped these organisms with adaptation strategies that have served them over the millennia.

New study suggests coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change

Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate warming, improving their chance of surviving through the end of this century, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study funded by NOAA and researched by the agency’s scientists and its academic partners. Results further suggest corals have already adapted to part of the warming that has occurred.

“Earlier modeling work suggested that coral reefs would be gone by the middle of this century. Our study shows that if corals can adapt to warming that has occurred over the past 40 to 60 years, some coral reefs may persist through the end of this century,” said study lead author Cheryl Logan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in California State University Monterey Bay’s Division of Science and Environmental Policy. The scientists from the university, and from the University of British Columbia, were NOAA’s partners in the study.

Warm water can contribute to a potentially fatal process known as coral “bleaching,” in which reef-building corals eject algae living inside their tissues. Corals bleach when oceans warm only 1-2°C (2-4°F) above normal summertime temperatures. Because those algae supply the coral with most of its food, prolonged bleaching and associated disease often kills corals.

The study, published online in the journal Global Change Biology, explores a range of possible coral adaptive responses to thermal stress previously identified by the scientific community. It suggests that coral reefs may be more resilient than previously thought due to past studies that did not consider effects of possible adaptation.

The study projected that, through genetic adaptation, the reefs could reduce the currently projected rate of temperature-induced bleaching by 20 to 80 percent of levels expected by the year 2100, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

“The hope this work brings is only achieved if there is significant reduction of human-related emissions of heat-trapping gases,” said Mark Eakin, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring program, which tracks bleaching events worldwide. “Adaptation provides no significant slowing in the loss of coral reefs if we continue to increase our rate of fossil fuel use.”

“Not all species will be able to adapt fast enough or to the same extent, so coral communities will look and function differently than they do today,” CalState’s Logan said.

While this paper focuses on ocean warming, many other general threats to coral species have been documented to exist that affect their long-term survival, such as coral disease, acidification, and sedimentation. Other threats to corals are sea-level rise, pollution, storm damage, destructive fishing practices, and direct harvest for ornamental trade.

According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000 report, coral reefs have been lost around the world in recent decades with almost 20 percent of reefs lost globally to high temperatures during the 1998-1999 El Niño and La Niña and an 80 percent percent loss of coral cover in the Caribbean was documented in a 2003 Science paper. Both rates of decline have subsequently been documented in numerous other studies as an on-going trend.

Tropical coral reef ecosystems are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and provide economic and social stability to many nations in the form of food security, where reef fish provide both food and fishing jobs, and economic revenue from tourism. Mass coral bleaching and reef death has increased around the world over the past three decades, raising questions about the future of coral reef ecosystems.

In the study, researchers used global sea surface temperature output from the NOAA/GFDL Earth System Model-2 for the pre-industrial period though 2100 to project rates of coral bleaching.

Because initial results showed that past temperature increases should have bleached reefs more often than has actually occurred, researchers looked into ways that corals may be able to adapt to warming and delay the bleaching process.

The article calls for further research to test the rate and limit of different adaptive responses for coral species across latitudes and ocean basins to determine if, and how much, corals can actually respond to increasing thermal stress.

###

 

In addition to Logan, the other authors of the paper were John Dunne, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch; and Simon Donner, Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program funded the study.

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73 Responses to Good news from NOAA: coral reefs can adapt to warming

  1. milodonharlani says:

    This should come as no surprise, since they adapted so well during all those previous centuries & millennia during which the oceans were much warmer than now, not to mention tens & hundreds of thousands & millions of years.

  2. johnbuk says:

    I’m confused now – is it “worse than we thought” or “not worse than we thought”?
    Obviously I see they suggest more grants/ research is required to ascertain the right answer!
    This could run and run.

  3. The phrase “NO SH1T, SHERLOCK” comes to mind…

  4. TImothy Sorenson says:

    Because initial results showed that past temperature increases should have bleached reefs more often than has actually occurred, researchers looked into ways that corals may be able to adapt to warming and delay the bleaching process.

    They are just shocked that the model output didn’t fit reality, so what are they claiming? Reality must be doing something we are unaware of, because the models we have built CAN’T be wrong!

  5. TImothy Sorenson says:

    The article calls for further research to test the rate and limit of different adaptive responses for coral species across latitudes and ocean basins to determine if, and how much, corals can actually respond to increasing thermal stress.

    OH yeah, we need more money.

  6. M Courtney says:

    So reefs have adapted in the past but can now only adapt if we stop emitting CO2.
    As the rate of rise in temperature is indistinguishable from before the industrial release of CO2 this must be due to acidification, not temperature stress.
    Yet the pH change is also theoretical not empirical.

    This raises the question of what is the point of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring program.
    It doesn’t seem to be monitoring so much as guessing.

  7. P Wilson says:

    What warming?

  8. Louis says:

    An organism that has survived millions of years of climate change is discovered to have the ability to adapt to changing temperatures. Color me shocked!

  9. john robertson says:

    But this is impossible, the coral reefs went extinct with the polar bears in each of the last 5 warming periods.
    IPCC TM science-y stuff.

  10. Konrad says:

    So coral reefs that survived the roman warm period, the medieval warm period and the little ice age can survive “moderate climate change”? Amazing!

    Well NOAA can try being moderate all they like, but it is far, far too late for that. They allowed Tom Karls pet rat TOBy to chew on surface station data. Their hands will never be clean.

  11. Doug says:

    It is rather simple: There are place in the ocean too cold, too turbid, too saline for coral, but there are no places where the lack of coral is due solely to temperature. There is a reason the greatest coral diversity lies near the equator.

  12. Jquip says:

    Coral bleaching again… “If I stop blushing, I’ll die.” For those that keep coral in aquariums this has been long known and understood. Corals don’t have color as such. All their majesty comes from a symbiotic relationship with algae, zooxanthellae. And the corals regulate their energy production by… expelling zooxanthellae when things are too active. eg. Bleaching is what gets done when the coral is gluttonous and want to go on a diet.

  13. Alan Chappell says:

    And this is on the surface, but down under ( not Australia )
    http://www.treasure-island-shipping.com
    they just may supply the answers to the questions that many are asking

  14. milodonharlani says:

    For most of their history, corals have lived happily & built reefs in much warmer seas than now & under much higher CO2 concentrations. They also survived the second & third biggest mass extinction events of the Phanerozoic, the Triassic-Jurassic & Cretaceous-Tertiary, plus possibly even the Mother of All MEEs, the Permian-Triassic. Can’t be sure about the latter, since corals don’t definitely show up until the Triassic.

    http://coral.aims.gov.au/info/evolution.jsp

  15. A.D. Everard says:

    Mark and two Cats says:
    October 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    The phrase “NO SH1T, SHERLOCK” comes to mind…

    *

    Mark and two Cats says it for me.

    Can we please stop funding these stupid reports now? We KNOW nature adapts. We don’t need more money down the drain to tell us what we already know linked to more doomsday prophecy tipping point lies if we don’t change our lifestyles.

    “Mass coral bleaching and reef death has increased around the world over the past three decades, raising questions about the future of coral reef ecosystems.” Oh yeah? Really? Mass bleaching and reef death? Really? As though coral doesn’t like warm water. Sheesh!

    Pull. The. Plug.

  16. Marcos says:

    its not only heat that corals are susceptible to. a few years ago there was a big coral die-off off of the FL coast when a very strong cold front went through. does anyone know if those were able to recover?

  17. Dave in Canmore says:

    It seems like their latest study is why the peer reviewers ought to rejected the earlier claims of coral reefs dying mid century. Funny how they end up with 2 published papers out of it! No common sense on display at all.

  18. milodonharlani says:

    Marcos says:
    October 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Dunno about recovery yet, but distinct species are affected differently:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02487.x/abstract

    Bear in mind that the impressive Florida Reefs (third largest barrier coral reef system on the planet) are only five to seven thousand years old, having developed in the Holocene interglacial.

  19. Tom J says:

    Jquip on October 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Well said. There’s an old line that a dog doesn’t s..t where it eats. A coral is near the base of evolution: its mouth is its anus. And it’s more or less fixed in place. So it does s..t where it eats: a potentially toxic combination. As you stated, the symbiotic algae within the coral is what give it its color. The algae consumes the waste products from the coral – to the benefit of the algae. The consumption of the coral’s waste products by the algae keeps the coral’s environment clean – to the benefit of the coral. However, over time the waste products, and possibly metals, build up within the algae to the point where a sudden die-off would prove fatal to its host coral. It’s been theorized that corals, which have existed far closer to the beginning of life than we have, will routinely ‘bleach’ (shed the algae) as an insurance policy against this.

    I’m so tired of hearing these ‘experts’ reduce everything, everywhere, every time, in every circumstance ever imaginable to nothing else ever than a function of nothing other than temperature. How extraordinarily simplistic, uncreative, and intellectual lazy. Oh, and indicative of an immature desire for group acceptance.

  20. Another Geo's Take says:

    Coral flourishes in shallow, clear, clean and WARM marine waters where a healthy predator specie population can keep the coral grazers in check. Never in the warmists lamenting about the loss of coral do they address the real and rather simple adverse impacts to coralline health…increased sediment and refined chemical load, and overfishing. Human caused? In most cases, yes. From CO2 and resultant “acidification”, no!

  21. Lauren R. says:

    “…almost 20 percent of reefs lost globally to high temperatures during the 1998-1999 El Niño and La Niña…”

    And then the corals grew back again after the brief spike in temperatures from the major El Niño and La Niña events subsided. That part always seems to be left out of these reports. I wonder why?

    The Wikipedia article on coral bleaching mentions that Great Barrier Reef experienced up to 90% mortality of corals in some places: “However coral losses on the reef between 1995 and 2009 were largely offset by growth of new corals. An overall analysis of coral loss found that coral populations on the Great Barrier Reef had declined by 50.7% from 1985 to 2012, but with only about 10% of that decline attributable to bleaching, and the remaining 90% caused about equally by tropical cyclones and by predation by crown-of-thorns starfishes.”

    But we never hear about the fact that corals grow back or that temperature change (warming AND cooling) is only one of many possible causes. “Possible causes” meaning that drastic temperature changes don’t appear to affect some corals; so it’s not clear what’s actually going on.

  22. Lauren R. says:

    Another thing that seems to be ignored is that ocean temperature changes that have affected corals happen relatively rapidly and are caused by ocean circulation, not by increases in air temperature. There is no evidence that the very modest air temperature increases over a comparatively long time period (decades) predicted by the IPCC would affect corals at all.

  23. Reg Nelson says:

    The good news is that this only affects coral living between 700 meters to 2000 meters, where the actual warming is hiding.

  24. johanna says:

    The other thing they ignore is that most coral grows in cyclone/typhoon/hurricane-prone areas. You should see what happens when a big one comes through. The coral (and everything else) gets utterly trashed and covered in muck.

    Guess what? A few years later, it’s grown back. Fragile system, what a load of the proverbial.

    These people are idiots.

  25. ROM says:

    Apparently these so called NOAA coral researchers never read any of the science literature relevant to their research.
    They don’t seem to know that the research has already been done on the coral’s aquatic algae partner’s ability to adapt to different water conditions including temperature changes simply by a small change in the variety of algae which enables the coral to adapt to changes in water conditions.

    Quoted from the Science Daily site of April 11th 2012.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120411084131.htm
    [quote]
    Widespread Adaptability: Coral Reefs May Be Able to Adapt to Climate Change With Help from Algae
    A new study by scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science suggests that many species of reef-building corals may be able to adapt to warming waters by relying on their closest aquatic partners — algae. The corals’ ability to host a variety of algal types, each with different sensitivities to environmental stress, could offer a much-needed lifeline in the face of global climate change.

    Using a highly sensitive genetic technique, Ph.D. student Rachel Silverstein analyzed 39 coral species from DNA collected in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean collected over the last 15 years. Most of these species had not previously been thought capable of hosting more than one type of the single-celled symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, which live inside the coral and help to supply them with energy.
    Silverstein’s results revealed that at least one colony of all 39 species tested had at least two varieties of algae, including one thought to be heat tolerant. Over half of the species were found to associate with all four of the major types of algae found in corals.
    “This study shows that more coral species are able to host multiple algal symbionts than we previously thought,” said Andrew Baker, associate professor at UM’s Rosenstiel School and co-author of the study. “The fact that they all seem to be capable of hosting symbionts that might help them survive warmer temperatures suggests they have hidden potential that was once thought to be confined to just a few special species.”[ end quote]

    NOAA; We have just invented a new device called the “wheel”
    Please send more money as we think we can make it work better if we shave all the four corners off!

  26. juan slayton says:

    …an 80 percent percent loss of coral cover in the Caribbean was documented in a 2003 Science paper.

    Caribbean-wide, or some locality within it? Anybody got a citation? This doesn’t seem to pass the sniff test….

  27. milodonharlani says:

    juan slayton says:
    October 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Abstract doesn’t say what the suspected causes may have been:

    https://www.sciencemag.org/content/301/5635/958

  28. Kev-in-Uk says:

    so, let me get this right – ‘they’ have decided that corals can adapt to warmer seas (even though most like warmer seas anyway!) – no sh$t Sherlock? – I can’t remember exactly when corals first appeared (but I think they could even be some from Precambrian?) but I know they were around at least 500Mya – so I’d hazard a rough guess that they are pretty good at adapting??????

  29. Re: Good news from NOAA: coral reefs can adapt to warming, 10/29/13 (bold added):

    Point of Order: All life on Earth can adapt; those forms that couldn’t are extinct. The conjecture in the article is that extant coral reefs are robust enough to survive some hypothesized warming.

    If the hypothetical warming is, as warmists claim, significant and unprecedented, then the coral are likely doomed because species shed unused robustness over a goodly number of generations. The conclusion of the paper suggests that the hypothesized warming is either insignificant or not unprecedented.

    The model depends on the number of generations involved. Biology appears yet to have quantified the length of a generation in coral species. Meanwhile, IPCC climatologists have no idea how far back to claim the unprecedented span in the upcoming warming in their failing AGW conjecture. How many times will a guess go into a guess?

  30. milodonharlani says:

    Kev-in-Uk says:
    October 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Though they may appear “primitive”, corals are actually quite “advanced”, ie “derived” animals. Depending upon definition, they might have evolved in the later Paleozoic, ie Carboniferous to Permian Periods, but definitely by the early Mesozoic, ie Triassic Period.

  31. Jquip says:

    Lauren R: “And then the corals grew back again after the brief spike in temperatures from the major El Niño and La Niña events subsided.”

    Worth mentioning here, as another poster mentioned it, that ‘bleached but living’ is called ‘loss’ and you are supposed to that to mean “It’s dead, Jim.” Coral grows faster than most folks give it credit for. But it does *not* grow quickly as such. So whenever you see a fast turnaround, you know that they buried the victim alive.

  32. agimarc says:

    Let’s see, corals can be traced back half a billion years. It has been mostly warmer with higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere over those hundreds of billions of years. So they can no longer survive when it gets warmer. Oh, I get it. Those weren’t MODERN corals (/sarc). Yeah, right.

    http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/thezone/fossils/inverts/coral.htm

  33. ferd berple says:

    Coral reef are almost exclusively found in the tropics. This hardly suggests that the water is too warm for them.

    The warmest waters in the world are found in the Red Sea, which also has some of the best corals in the world.

    The problem is not with corals, it is with scientists that know so little about them. Bleaching is not a fatal condition in corals. It is a changing of the guard to better make use of different water temperatures.

  34. milodonharlani says:

    Tom J says:
    October 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for reminding readers that corals may bleach themselves periodically, for whatever hygienic or environmental reason. It’s not always a bad thing. But in any case slight differences in surface water pH is a minor factor in a long list of natural changes affecting corals & their relationship with symbiont algae.

  35. milodonharlani says:

    agimarc says:
    October 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    That’s a misleading site. Reefs 500 Ma weren’t built by corals.

    The Cambrian reef systems were built by different organisms, some animals & some not. Different marine invertebrates built new reef systems in the Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous & Permian. Corals might have evolved in the late Paleozoic, but as free swimmers, not sessile reef builders.

  36. milodonharlani says:

    First coral reefs from the Late Triassic, or at least scleractinian reefs:

    http://coral.aims.gov.au/info/reefs-mesozoic.jsp

  37. Jimbo says:

    Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate warming, improving their chance of
    surviving through the end of this century, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study funded by NOAA and researched by the agency’s scientists and its academic partners. Results further suggest corals have already adapted to part of the warming that has occurred.

    The Earth has had well, well over 1500 ppm in the atmosphere as well as being much warmer in the previous interglacials – the corals survived somehow. Even under ‘business as usual’ per IPCC we won’t hit 1,500ppm this century. I vaguely recall that coral evolution took of at a time of far, far higher co2 than today? The IPCC’s temperature projections for 2100 now look very iffy indeed.

    The Warmest sea in the world is apparently the Red Sea which is said to range from 20 to 30C depending where you measure. The warmest parts are inhabited by some funny looking things that resemble corals. :-)

  38. Latitude says:

    Warm water can contribute to a potentially fatal process known as coral “bleaching,”….

    really?…..I’m so glad corals found a way to survive it……by getting out of the water

    http://img133.imageshack.us/img133/8561/016szk1.jpg

    idiots……….

  39. milodonharlani says:

    Jimbo says:
    October 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Mesozoic coral reefs thrived under CO2 regimes possibly over 3000 ppm & surely above 1500 ppm. This study find ~3400 ppm in the Jurassic:

    http://caos.iisc.ernet.in/faculty/pghosh/content/Publications/19.pdf

    Seawater was remarkably hot in the Cretaceous (despite probably lower CO2 than the cooler, or less warm, Jurassic).

  40. Jimbo says:

    Warm water can contribute to a potentially fatal process known as coral “bleaching,” in which reef-building corals eject algae living inside their tissues. Corals bleach when oceans warm only 1-2°C (2-4°F) above normal summertime temperatures. Because those algae supply the coral with most of its food, prolonged bleaching and associated disease often kills corals.

    As you can see they point out that coral bleaching events don’t necessarily kill corals. Regeneration can occur and has.
    http://www.livescience.com/28440-coral-reefs-can-regenerate.html

    Coral Recruitment and Regeneration on a Maldivian Reef 21 Months after the Coral Bleaching Event of 1998
    Marine Ecology Volume 23, Issue 3, pages 219–236, September 2002
    DOI: 10.1046/j.1439-0485.2002.02773.x
    ————————–
    Isolated Coral Reefs Can Heal Themselves
    New research shows that an isolated reef off the northwest coast of Australia that was severely damaged by a period of warming in 1998 has regenerated in a very short time to become nearly as healthy as it was before. What surprises scientists, though, is that the reef regenerated by itself, found a study published today (April 4) in the journal Science.
    http://www.livescience.com/28440-coral-reefs-can-regenerate.html

  41. Latitude says:

    As you can see they point out that coral bleaching events don’t necessarily kill corals.
    ===
    Jim, bleaching is a normal process….the corals are just changing one dinoflagellate, or group of, or mess of, or even just some…..for another…or less of some, so there’s more of another

  42. Jimbo says:

    Someone wrote something similar in 2003 and said we needed more research. I knew there had to be reasons corals were still with us after millions of years and quite a few interglacials.

    Coral bleaching — capacity for acclimatization and adaptation
    …………Published projections of a baseline of increasing ocean temperature resulting from global warming have suggested that annual temperature maxima within 30 years may be at levels that will cause frequent coral bleaching and widespread mortality leading to decline of corals as dominant organisms on reefs. However, these projections have not considered the high variability in bleaching response that occurs among corals both within and among species. There is information that corals and their symbionts may be capable of acclimatization and selective adaptation to elevated temperatures that have already resulted in bleaching resistant coral populations, both locally and regionally, in various areas of the world. There are possible mechanisms that might provide resistance and protection to increased temperature and light. These include inducible heat shock proteins that act in refolding denatured cellular and structural proteins, production of oxidative enzymes that inactivate harmful oxygen radicals, fluorescent coral pigments that both reflect and dissipate light energy, and phenotypic adaptations of zooxanthellae and adaptive shifts in their populations at higher temperatures……..
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0065288103460045

  43. Jimbo says:

    If a nuclear bomb was exploded on some corals would it get too hot? Of course, but could they come back? You betcha. It’s funny how delicate these things really are. They are doomed.

    Abstract
    Bikini Atoll coral biodiversity resilience five decades after nuclear testing
    Five decades after a series of nuclear tests began, we provide evidence that 70% of the Bikini Atoll zooxanthellate coral assemblage is resilient to large-scale anthropogenic disturbance. Species composition in 2002 was assessed and compared to that seen prior to nuclear testing. A total of 183 scleractinian coral species was recorded, compared to 126 species recorded in the previous study (excluding synonomies, 148 including synonomies). We found that 42 coral species may be locally extinct at Bikini. Fourteen of these losses may be pseudo-losses due to inconsistent taxonomy between the two studies or insufficient sampling in the second study, however 28 species appear to represent genuine losses. Of these losses, 16 species are obligate lagoonal specialists and 12 have wider habitat compatibility. Twelve species are recorded from Bikini for the first time. We suggest the highly diverse Rongelap Atoll to the east of Bikini may have contributed larval propagules to facilitate the partial resilience of coral biodiversity in the absence of additional anthropogenic threats.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X07004523

  44. milodonharlani says:

    Jimbo says:
    October 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Who knew that the best thing for coral diversity was first to detonate a number of fission bombs on an atoll, then follow that up by a gigantic 15 megaton thermonuclear (fission-fusion) explosion as the coup de grace, for a total energy release of 42.2 megatons?

    If we really want coral reefs to flourish, then the best thing to do would be to hit them with a modern, multi-stage fission-fusion-fission device not once, not twice, but thrice for good measure. Also has the added advantage of possibly speeding up evolution.

    But one more molecule of CO2, up from three to four, out of 10,000 dry air molecules, plus of course in the tropics about 400 water vapor molecules, that’s a killer!

  45. TomRude says:

    I suppose all these Holocene coral remnants and all Pacific atolls’ architecture must have survived somehow whatever was thrown to them during the Quaternary… or perhaps not: cores are so old fashioned data and not post modern science… /sarc

  46. Jimbo says:

    I see in the top image caption “corals. The picture was taken in Papua New Guinea ” which reminded me of a story on WUWT with co2 bubbling between corals there. They were being given an ‘acid’ bath for want of a better phrase.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/28/the-fishes-and-the-coral-live-happily-in-the-co2-bubble-plume/

  47. Jquip says:

    @Jimbo: “Someone wrote something similar in 2003 and said we needed more research”

    Only thing is, bleaching is a condition, not a cause. Bleaching from pathogens that attack zooxanthellae? Fatal if prolonged. Bleaching from gustatory delight? Not. Fatal. Probably doesn’t need reminded that temperature is not a pathogen.

    @milodon: Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  48. Jimbo says:

    And finally……………..there are other reasons for coral bleaching too. So next time you hear about coral bleaching ask yourself, what’s the cause???

    First Florida Cold-water Bleaching Event in 30 Years
    http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/weeklynews/mar10/cwcoral.html
    ——————————-
    Science Daily – July 12, 2012
    Viruses May Be Causing Coral Bleaching and Decline Around the World
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120712092610.htm
    ——————————
    Disease
    Urban and agricultural run-off pollution
    Salinity shock from heavy rains or floods
    Sedimentation from activities such as dredging
    http://www.reefresilience.org/Toolkit_Coral/C2_BleachBasics.html

  49. Khwarizmi says:

    Cold, dark, deep water corals:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep-water_coral
    Shallow Water Corals Evolved From Deep Sea Ancestors
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080617204512.htm

    superficial
    (adjective)
    4. concerned with or comprehending only what is on the surface or obvious
    (dictionary.com)

    Earlier modeling work suggested that bees shouldn’t be able to fly.
    But bees did fly, proving that the models were wrong.
    That’s what Cherly Logan is saying today.

  50. barry says:

    If they say it might be worse, they’re liars. If they say it might not be as bas as we thought, they’re being mendacious, but differently. Seems you can’t trust them. But I imagine if one of their number say that CO2 warming will be barely noticeable, even a twice the rate we’re currently emitting, then that representative of NOAA will be hailed as a righteous soothsayer.

  51. R. de Haan says:

    Corals are the pestilence of the oceans. You simply can’t kill them. Corals withstand nukes, extreme variation in sea levels, ice ages, meteor impacts, you name it. And if you sink a ship within a few years it’s turned into an artificial reef.

    If I have to make a bet about which species will bite the dust first, Corals or the Alarmists, I say the Alarmists.

    As for NOAA, let’s turn NOAA into an artificial reef.
    The’ve earned it.

  52. barry says:

    Corals are the pestilence of the oceans. You simply can’t kill them.

    I have dived the Great Barrier Reef and I’ve seen dead coral first hand. It’s not indestructible. Warming waters are not chiefly responsible for the die-off. It’s a combination of factors working against the reef.

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-10-01/national/35499811_1_crown-of-thorns-starfish-individual-reefs-nancy-knowlton

  53. thingadonta says:

    “almost 20 percent of reefs lost globally to high temperatures during the 1998-1999 El Niño and La Niña”

    I think the figure is closer to 0%

  54. dbstealey says:

    barry,

    When NOAA’s ‘adjustments’ go equally in both directions I will start to take them seriously. But as we know, about 99% of the gov’t’s temperature and other ‘adjustments’ seem to go the the direction intended to cause maximum public alarm.

  55. TomRude says:

    Reference regarding corals and sea level changes during the Quaternary in the Pacific:
    Perrin C., 1990, Genèse de la morphologie des atolls: le cas de Mururoa (Polynésie Française), Comptes Rendus Académie des Sciences Paris, t. 311, ser. II, 671-678.

  56. Mario Lento says:

    Let me fix this ““Earlier modeling work suggested that coral reefs would be gone by the middle of this century. Our study shows that if corals can adapt to warming that has occurred over the past 40 to 60 years, some coral reefs may persist through the end of this century,”

    It should have been written as:
    “Earlier modeling work suggested that coral reefs would be gone by the middle of this century. But, based on observation, it is now known that corals can adapt to warming that has occurred over the past 40 to 60 years. So at this time, there is no evidence that they won’t make it through the end of this century,”

    There, I fixed it!

  57. Mario Lento says:

    I read ” if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    But no follow up to that. What claim are they making about carbon dioxide emissions? That CO2 will do what specifically? They did not close the loop on this thought. They just threw it in there and hoped it would stick, I take it.

  58. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Of all of the popular projected outcomes from global warming, coral survival is one of the most troubled. People who work on corals and reefs seem to be affected in an emotional way, which is not surprising, given the beauty that abounds. Perhaps as a consequence, some of the emphasis in the reporting of their science seems also to be overly emotional and not so constrained by hard observation as happens in other hard science.
    The main case regarding the Great Barrier Reef has been developed by people who, in the main, tend to go overboard. In reaction, this topic should be studied more intensely than usual by people who are auditing the science. I shall not name names here, but you can form an opinion by reading their papers and press releases.
    One of the main arguments about the GBR is alleged potential for damage caused by the development of ports and shipping, particularly to service development of large coal mines and coal export. This topic is ripe for over-imagination and short on actual figures showing clear and present danger (for example, by giving concentrations of alleged pollutants, volumes of affected seas, laboratory and in-situ studies of the toxicity of various pollutants, etc.).
    In short, there is a bare-faced attempt to curtail development of coal resources by using emotional outpouring instead of informed science. More so than usual.

  59. sophocles says:

    Yawn. Whatever will they think of next?
    Corals can adapt.
    How many mega years have corals been around on this mudball?
    How many mega tons of CO2 have they sequestered as a building
    block of their reef materail?
    Can some one introduce these …umm … people to e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n?
    They NEED to know!

  60. johanna says:

    Geoff, +1.

    I have been hearing about the imminent demise of the GBR for over forty years now, from various imagined causes. The panic coincided with the rise of radical environmental advocacy.

    From what I have been able to glean, there are some genuine concerns in small areas regarding run-off from urban centres and agriculture, which can cause sedimentation and possibly toxic effects from agricultural pesticides. But if you look at the size of the reef (thousands of miles long) and its age, and the many natural disasters and climate fluctuations it has survived, I call BS on 99% of the alarmist claims.

    Frankly, if you blasted a channel through it to facilitate larger ships getting to a port, your main concern would be that the damn stuff would grow back.

  61. lee forward says:

    And in other news for coral

    ‘Nature paper reveals coral animals produce the ‘smell of the ocean’ – influencing cloud formation and protecting themselves against rising seawater temperatures.

    Australian marine scientists have found the first evidence that coral itself may play an important role in regulating local climate.

    They have discovered that the coral animal—not just its algal symbiont—makes an important sulphur-based molecule with properties to assist it in many ways, ranging from cellular protection in times of heat stress to local climate cooling by encouraging clouds to form.

    These findings have been published in the prestigious weekly science journal Nature.

    The researchers have shown that the coral animal makes dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP). “The characteristic ‘smell of the ocean’ is actually derived from this compound, indicating how abundant the molecule is in the marine environment. In fact we could smell it in a single baby coral,” says AIMS chemist Cherie Motti, and co-author on the paper.’

    read more: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/marine/coralclimate

    Killing the climate beast.

  62. Gregg Eshelman says:

    What about the originally land based fungus that was found to have blown across the Atlantic from Africa and adapted to a new watery home in Caribbean coral?

  63. tty says:

    “But if you look at the size of the reef (thousands of miles long) and its age, and the many natural disasters and climate fluctuations it has survived”

    The odd thing is that there is no such thing as an old coral reef anywhere in the World. Not one of today’s coral reefs existed 20,000 or even 15,000 years ago. Sealevels were much lower during the ice-age and the coral reefs of those days are now drowned by 50 or 100 meters of water.
    ALL living coral reefs have grown during the present c. 11,700 years old interglacial. True, they have often grown on top, or on the flanks of reefs from previous interglacials, but those reefs have been just dead limestone ridges for periods of c. 100,000 years between each 10,000 year reef episode.
    Even more oddly, none of the large reef-systems that have been drilled (e. g. the Great Barrier Reef) seems to be older than c. 700,000 – 1,000,000 years old. Before that the glacial/interglacial cycles lasted for only 40,000 years, and the interglacials with a reasonably stable sea level were just too short for really large reef systems to grow.
    That we have reefs like the Great Barrier Reef is due to the fact that we have had five fairly long interglacials in a row with more or less the same, fairly stable, sea level (MIS 1, 5e, 7, 9 and 11).

  64. johanna says:

    Agree, tty.

    The point is that the reef has steadily grown and increased in size, over thousands of years, as the climate steadily warmed, and through countless major weather events in the form of cyclones – as we call them.

    It’s not remotely “fragile” in terms of surviving trauma or warming. The earlier versions of the GBR (and of others around the world) survived higher CO2 levels than we have, or are likely to have even under the worst alarmist scenarios.

    Coral is tough stuff. Cooling or dramatic sea level declines are the things it can’t tolerate (apart from wanton destruction of very small reefs by overfishing, blasting and poisoning). There is no human activity either taking place or proposed that is a threat to the GBR as a whole.

    A bit of blasting to let ships through a narrow channel – meh. A louse on an elephant. Pollution from runoff – more serious because it inhibits regrowth. Worth addressing, IMO.

    But the standard greenie propaganda, i.e. that it is doomed if evil humans don’t treat the whole thing like an untouchable sacred site, and also stop emitting CO2, is rubbish.

  65. barry says:

    johanna,

    Coral is tough stuff

    Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals since 1985, new study says

    Warming waters are only responsible for 10% of bleaching, according to that study. But that warming is on top of other factors, and not included is the changing PH balance of the water.

    tty wrote,

    ALL living coral reefs have grown during the present c. 11,700 years old interglacial.

    Most living, near-surface coral reefs were formed after the last interglacial, and are no older than 10,000 years. There are exceptions.

    As always, the concern (re climate change) is not that the climate is changing – it always has and it always will – it is the rate of change that stresses ecosystems. The fossil record shows coral reefs forming polewards as the Earth warms, and equatorwards as it cools. The processes involved here are on the order of thousands of years.

  66. johanna says:

    barry – that “study” is nonsense. It was (readers will be shocked) based on modelling – they didn’t actually go and measure the amount of coral. There are thousands of “sub-reefs” on the GBR, and nobody has ever measured them all, or even a substantial number of them.What’s more, there are several different types of “sub-reefs”, formed in different ways and inhabited by different species.

    These people, (who by the way are cited in a paper by full blown alarmists) said:

    “Recently, De’ath et al. [9] reported a loss of over 50% coral cover along the Great Barrier Reef from 1985 to 2012 based on surveys of 214 reefs, attributing the decline to cyclones (48%), Crown-of Thorns starfish (42%), and bleaching (10%).”

    From this paper:

    http://www.hindawi.com/isrn/oceanography/2013/739034/

    The news that 50% of the reef is gone is news to fishermen, tourist operators, local residents, boaties and everyone else who lives, works or regularly travels there. Honestly, how do they expect to maintain any credibility at all? It’s like saying that half of the Grand Canyon could disappear without anyone noticing until some scientist came along. Except that the Reef is many times larger than the Grand Canyon.

    And 25% went due to cyclones in less than 30 years? The number and intensity of cyclones has not been dramatically different over that time compared to the rest of the C20th. On that basis, it should have been wiped out completely before any of us were born.

    It is precisely this absurd, lying scaremongering that is sinking the CAGW movement before our eyes. And not a moment too soon.

  67. DirkH says:

    barry says:
    October 30, 2013 at 6:03 am
    “As always, the concern (re climate change) is not that the climate is changing – it always has and it always will – it is the rate of change that stresses ecosystems. The fossil record shows coral reefs forming polewards as the Earth warms, and equatorwards as it cools. The processes involved here are on the order of thousands of years.”

    a) You say that coral adapted to slow changes. But you do not show that coral is incapable of adapting to faster changes. BTW, how fast is a change of zero over the last 17 years.

    b) Last I heard is that evolutionists believe in adaptability through hereditary factors they call genes. Now, the rate of creation of new gene combinations – whether by mutation, genetic changes through viral vectors, introns or crossovers – must be proportional to the number of individuals in the population, as it is proportional to the procreations happening.

    You say that the surface reefs only exist for 10,000 years – I guess we can agree that they must have expanded over these 10,000 years and have achieved their highest population in the present.

    Therefore, they have, as a population, never been more capable of adapting than now.

  68. M Courtney says:

    DirkH says at October 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm…
    Interesting idea but it ignores that importance of genetic diversity.
    If coral reefs are in close contact then a monoculture of genetic material may be expected to dominate. This is relatively more vulnerable to change.

    If they are separated then they would be more capable of adapting.

    I would suggest that the transport of water on ships’ bilge and the breaking of reefs by trawling are beneficial to the genetic diversity of coral.
    But, on the other hand, the recent decline in hurricanes and tropical storms is bad for genetic diversity of reefs.

    You win some and you lose some.

  69. barry says:

    johanna,

    It was (readers will be shocked) based on modelling – they didn’t actually go and measure the amount of coral.

    Perhaps you read a different paper.

    “The study is based on 2,258 reef surveys from 214 different reefs over 27 y”

    There are few studies that have surveyed as extensively, and some come up with different results for different periods. Eg,

    ..standard annual surveys of a large number of reefs showed that from 1986 to 2004, average live coral cover across the GBR declined from 28 to 22%.

    This study believes that previous reports were overestimated (predates the study I first mentioned): it’s a lower estimate than most others

    Do you live near the reef? I visit occasionally to go diving (I live in Sydney), and the tour operators I speak to have noticed wide scale bleaching in some areas. Maybe I’ve been unlucky enough to only speak with ‘alarmists’. Typically, tour operators operate in small areas – part of a compact to lessen human influence on the reef.

    Bleaching happens periodically from various natural events, like storm activity. I do not know if storm intensity has increased around the Reef (probably not), but I have read that it is the combination of emerging factors,like warmer waters, sea level rise and ocean acidification, that exacerbate the impact of natural, periodic influences, and also effect reilience.

    It’s not just the GBR, this is happening at other reefs, too. The Carribean has also undergone widespread deteriorarttion.

    There are many reports assessing resilience and showing coral recovery in some areas, but narrowing focus to only this aspect ignores the bigger picture. Rather like pointing to the 15% of glaciers worldwide that are not declining and saying that nothing is happening. Seems a bit pollyannaish to me.

  70. johanna says:

    It is estimated that there are around 3,000 individual reefs in the GBR, spread over an enormous area, including more than 900 islands.

    Of course they used modelling. How else could they have extrapolated the results of a couple of hundred reefs to 3,000, over such a vast area?

    And you still haven’t answered my question. If 50% of it disappeared in less than 30 years, how come no-one but a bunch of warmie alarmist scientists noticed?

  71. R. de Haan says:

    barry says:
    October 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm
    “Corals are the pestilence of the oceans. You simply can’t kill them.

    I have dived the Great Barrier Reef and I’ve seen dead coral first hand. It’s not indestructible. Warming waters are not chiefly responsible for the die-off. It’s a combination of factors working against the reef.

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-10-01/national/35499811_1_crown-of-thorns-starfish-individual-reefs-nancy-knowlton

    Well barry, I made my remark from the view of corals as a species:

    We have nuked entire reefs several times (Bikini remember) and 25 years later everything looks fine.

    I have flown over the Great Barrier reef and it looks fantastic.

    We had much higher water temps but also much colder over the past millions of years. We had enormous changes in ocean levels. Corals as a species survived.

    Whatever happens to corals, just let them alone, maybe the corals are allergic to divers so do your diving somewhere else.

    And please refrain me from any Washington Post article because the nonsense they have written about the environment over the past two decades is mind boggling and eventually will fry your brain

    To be really honest, I’m totally fed up with all the “humans are responsible” BS and all the alarmist crap.

    Sick an tired of it.

  72. johanna says:

    R. de Haan, +1.

    Of course there is dead coral, just like there are dead trees in a forest. So what? Apart from things like urban and agricultural runoff, there is precious little real data about the effects of human activity on the Reef. And I support action to minimise the effects of known significantly detrimental human activity. That doesn’t mean banning humans from being there, or catching a few fish.

    The specious claims that have been trotted out for decades – culminating in the almost surreal suggestion that half of it has gone under our noses – are propaganda masquerading as “research.”

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