WARNING! Some coral reef systems could face irreversible damage if the world is warmed up by more than 1.5°C.

This is what a recent UN Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said.  In 2018, they reported that a 2ºC or more increase would mean that 99% of all reef-building corals could be lost.  Researchers have found otherwise. A study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that some lobe corals can, in fact, cope with 2°C of global warming.

Lobe coral by Keoki Stender

Lobe coral is one of the four most prominent reef-building coral species in Hawai’i. This surge-tolerant coral can be found in a variety of habitats, from tide pools to depths of 45 m throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The study mentioned above took place on lobe coral populations from Maunalua Bay, Hawaii. Test results showed clear genetic differentiation between the ‘polluted, high-stress’ nearshore corals and the ‘less polluted, lower-stress’ offshore corals. Physiological responses differed significantly between the populations, revealing more stress-resilient traits in the nearshore corals.  These results provide insight into coral’s adaptive potential, and have revealed potential protein biomarkers that could be used to predict resiliency.

So it’s not all doom and gloom, the corals are buying us some time.  We still need to do something about climate change though and every little bit helps!

To see how you can help, go to: https://youtu.be/AR_8haFgvgY

For more info on this research go to: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-82569-7

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