Marine biologists subjected two of the most common coral species to a +2°C aquarium for two years and discovered they were able to adapt to the higher temperature.
Stopping the planet from warming more than 2°C over the next thirty years is one of mankind's major goals, including the impact on vulnerable coral reefs in warming oceans, but the new experiment provides considerable, unforeseen, reason for optimism.
Rice coral, finger coral, and lobe coral have been subjected to the longest coral resilience experiment ever done and the researchers' positive results were published in Nature earlier this month.
“Porites compressa (finger coral) and Porites lobata (lobe coral) had the highest survivorship and coped well under future ocean conditions with positive calcification and increased biomass, maintenance of lipids, and the capacity to exceed their metabolic demand through photosynthesis and heterotrophy,” says the team's report.
“We saw this long-term arc where you see stress responses, but after long enough there was acclimatization,” Andréa Grottoli, a coral biogeochemist at Ohio State who was senior author of the paper, told National Geographic. “They weren’t just struggling. Two of the three species were doing really well.”
By way of corroboration, reef monitors in Hawai’i also told National Geographic that the experiment reflected with what they are observing in the corals around the islands, adding that if they can be protected from pollution and other man-made disturbances, they should be able to survive in the coming decades.
It’s good news for reefs around the world, since lobe coral is a pioneer species, and often the first kind of coral to begin building a reef. Finger coral too is not only found in Hawai’i but throughout the reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.