As corals around the perish due to ocean acidification, pollution, bleaching and other factors, certain corals are trying to adapt to rising sea levels in order to better survive climate change.
Traditionally, many corals have been vertically constrained by sea level, but in the case of Porites corals in Palau, the rise in sea level has changed how they branch out. They are actually keeping up with rising sea levels, according to a research paper published in Royal Society Open Science.
This image shows the flat top of the porites coral at high tide. The flat top shows the low tide spring line. At low tide, thew water level is at the top of the colony. Photo by Florida Institute of Technology
Researchers with the Florida Institute of Technology, University of Queensland, and the Palau International Coral Reef Center revealed that during the course of the last six to eight years, Porites micro atolls in Palau have shown vertical growth of 13mm, which coincides with that of the rise in sea levels. The scientists measured 570 reef flat Porites micro atolls in 10 regions around Palau and noted the growth.
“Reefs will continue to keep up with sea-level rise if we reduce our emission of greenhouse gases,” said Florida Tech’s Rob van Woesik, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “If reefs lose their capacity to keep up with sea-level rise they will drown.”
They then created a model to determine whether these growth rates, based on average growth, could keep up with the predicted rise in sea levels and factored in certain things such as green house gas concentrations, atmospheric CO2 levels, and sea-surface temperature by the year 2100 and found that these corals, while they are adapting to the change sea levels rising, would be probably be unable to keep up with the rise in sea levels in the 21st century.
The scientists stress that the rise in sea levels will increase substantially in the 21st century and in order to ensure that corals can “keep up” with the rise, those who manage coral reefs will need to work to maximize living coral cover, taking into account all unknown factors such as temperature fluctuations in the oceans and how typhoons will impact protective Porite coal colonies. If these coral colonies cannot keep up with the change in climate, it could have adverse effects on the millions of people who live throughout the Pacific Ocean.