By: Bernd F. Laeschke
Southampton (global-adventures.us): Increased levels of nutrients in the water column can increase the susceptibility of corals to fall victim to bleaching, research conducted at University of Southampton’s Coral Reef Laboratory shows. Corals are marine animals that have a mutually beneficial, or ‘symbiotic’, relationship with algae that live in their tissue. Studies have shown that when water temperatures rise beyond a certain threshold, the corals expel the algae, which can increase mortality of the host and turns the corals white.
“The increasing influx of nutrients in coastal waters due to human activities represents a pressing problem for coral reefs,” says Dr. Joerg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory. “A better understanding of the links between disturbed nutrient levels and coral bleaching is vital to develop marine and coastal management strategies, whichhelp to ensure future health of coral reefs.”
Wiedenmann’s project ‘Incorals’ has been recognized by the European Research Council’s Starting Grant competition by granting a 1.29 million Euros award. The project will build on the initial findings and investigate the detailed mechanisms that underlie the responses of corals and their symbiotic algae to nutrient stress.
The ‘Starting Grant’ scheme is a program aimed at early-career researchers, supporting a new generation of top scientists in Europe. Funding is provided to set up research teams and to develop the best ideas at the frontiers of knowledge. The 2012 competition attracted 4,741 applications competing for a share of the 800 million euro budget.
A YouTube video explaining the research undertaken at the universities coral reef lab facility is available here. Current science suggests that coral bleaching is promoted by global warming, eventually threatening to wipe out coral reefs around the world.
Coral colonies are symbiotic marine animals susceptible to rising water temperatures and increased nutrient levels. Approximately 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs are dead, and 60 percent are at risks due to human activity. Some dead corals are washed up on beaches around the world.