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Corals Capable of Surviving 'Extreme Condition' Found in Great Barrier Reef's Mangrove Lagoons

Led by Emma Camp from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, a team of scientists found 34 species of coral that were regularly exposed to extremely low pH, low oxygen levels and highly variable temperatures.

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Updated:August 30, 2019, 8:15 PM IST
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Corals Capable of Surviving 'Extreme Condition' Found in Great Barrier Reef's Mangrove Lagoons
Representative Image. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Researchers have discovered corals capable of surviving extreme conditions in mangrove lagoons around Australia's Great Barrier Reef by using a photosynthetic strategy that trades fast growth for survival.

Led by Emma Camp from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, a team of scientists found 34 species of coral that were regularly exposed to extremely low pH, low oxygen levels and highly variable temperatures.

The “hot spots” of coral resilience were found in two mangrove lagoons, known as the Woody Isles and Howick Island, according to a study published in the journal Marine Ecology ProgressSeries.

The discovery, the researchers hope, will help scientists gain insight into the response of corals to climate change and other environmental stress.

"This highlights the need to study environments that would usually be considered unfavorable to corals in order to understand how stress tolerance in corals works," Camp said in a press release. "There is a lot we don't know. For example are these extreme corals already at their limit, can they survive more stress, if we transplant them to more stable environments will they maintain their stress tolerance?"

She told Newsweek that the mangrove lagoon conditions are “comparable to, or even exceed what is predicted for, the open-ocean under climate change in the year 2100."

With the support of Wavelength Reef Charters and funding from Waitt Foundation/National Geographic, Emma and colleagues surveyed 250 kilometers of the Great Barrier Reef and visited eight lagoons for the study.

After analyzing samples, the researchers discovered that the “extreme corals” had been shunning fast growth (reduced calcification rates) for survival with the help of a photosynthetic strategy (physiological plasticity) and microbial diversity.

“It’s likely these mangrove lagoon corals have the best chance to persist into the future given that they are already conditioned to the complex interaction of warmer waters, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation predicted for reefs under climate change,” said David Suggett, a co-author of the study.

The researchers have called for increased protection of the lagoons.

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