The Future of Corals
Coral reefs are renowned for their beauty and diversity, and they provide us with a wondrous spectacle. But as the seas warm and become more acidic, will they survive?
Coral reefs are renowned for their beauty and diversity, and they provide us with a wondrous spectacle. Full of colourful fish, patrolled by sharks and visited by a host of exotic creatures from manta rays to turtles, they bring breath-taking colour to our seas. But what is their future? As our climate warms, so too do the oceans and corals are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. The increasing level of CO2 in our atmosphere means more is dissolved in seawater, making our oceans ever more acidic and hindering their ability to build their structures. Mass coral bleaching, when large areas of corals die and turn white, was unknown before the 1980s, now they are increasingly common in many areas of the ocean. The lack of build-up of new coral due to acidification is now measurable and many scientists are wondering how long coral reefs will survive. Monty Dom explores the future of coral in our stressed oceans and explores what can be done.
Jamie Craggs is the Aquarium Curator at the Horniman Museum & Gardens, London, UK, overseeing the collection which contains around 2,500 live specimens representing 200 different species. He is the founder of Horniman Project Coral, a pioneering multi-year coral sexual reproductive research project which aims at understanding the impact that climate change is having on the resilience of corals and their ability to reproduce.
Horniman Project Coral utilises the latest microprocessor technologies, to precisely replicate environmental cues responsible to trigger coral reproduction within the coral research facility at the museum. These include seasonal temperature, sunlight and lunar cycles. In 2013, this resulted in the first predictable broadcast coral spawning, in a completely closed system, in the world.
In collaboration with scientific and corporate partners a number of experiments are being conducted that focus on specific areas of coral reproduction and are giving a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.
His vision has always been that a collection within a public aquarium should be used to deepen our understanding of biology and promote conservation of species and habitats.
Dr Elvira Poloczanska
Dr Elvira Poloczanska's focus is on the development of tools to assess vulnerability of species, habitats and regions to climate change, the direct and indirect mechanisms through which climate change impacts manifest on our marine biodiversity, and communication of impacts science.
Her original research focus was on modelling the role of climate and biotic interactions such as competition and predation in mediating climate change impacts on populations and communities. Since joining CSIRO her research focus has been on climate change ecology and the role of ecological processes and climate forcing in structuring coastal and inshore communities.
Dr George Roff
Dr George Roff has spent most of the past decade both studying and living in Australia and travelling around the world. His PhD research focused on reconstructing the historical ecology of the Great Barrier Reef and he is currently he is a post-doctoral researcher at the Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, University of Queensland.
He is broadly interested in processes of resilience, disturbance and recovery in Indo-Pacific and Caribbean coral reef ecosystems. His research to date has been largely based in the Indo-Pacific (Great Barrier Reef & Palau) and the Caribbean (Belize & Bahamas), looking at processes of disturbance (coral bleaching, coral disease, cyclones, corallivory) and the recovery of coral assemblages (coral recruitment) at varying spatial scales.
Dr Julius Piercy
Dr Piercy's passion for the natural world started in the Italian countryside where he grew up catching frogs, snakes, lizards and fish at a nearby stream. He pursued this passion by studying Zoology at the University of Bristol in 2007 where he first heard about the world of coral reef sounds during a seminar talk by Dr Steve Simpson. This paved the way for his future course in life.
Upon completing his degree he worked as a research assisstant at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, before embarking on a PhD with the Coral Reef Research Unit at the University of Essex in 2011. His research focussed on the underwater sounds of coral reefs and how they influenced recruitment of larval fish, spending most of his time between East Anglia, the Coral Triangle in Indonesia and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. He completed his PhD in December 2014.