Please select your home edition
Edition
Musto AUS 2017 728x90 2

Corals vary due to earthquakes and volcanoes according to ARC study

by ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies on 25 May 2013
Coral Reefs ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies http://www.coralcoe.org.au/
Colossal forces in the Earth’s crust explain why the abundance and richness of corals varies dramatically across the vast expanse of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, a world-first study from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) has found.

This new finding has major implications for corals under climate change: if rich coral communities arise from geological processes that take place over millions of years, they will be even harder to replace if lost due to global warming.

Scientists from CoECRS reveal for the first time that abrupt changes in the mix of coral species are associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, and jostling among the Earth’s giant tectonic plates. The study shows that slow geological processes generate the patterns of reef biodiversity that we see today, and explains why some coral species are more widespread than others.

'There are many theories to explain how coral reefs came to be,' says lead author, Dr Sally Keith of CoECRS and James Cook University. 'Traditionally scientists have tested these theories by looking at where species occur. We used a fresh approach that focused on where species stopped occurring and why.'

'Our results were striking', says Dr Keith. 'Unexpectedly, we found that coral species are not limited by sudden changes in the environment or large gaps in habitat – but rather by major geological events such as the clash of two giant tectonic plates.'

The team concludes that the slow movement of the Earth’s crust over millions of years has gradually created the biodiversity pattern we see across the Oceans today.

'For example, Hawaii is a chain of volcanic islands that has formed as a tectonic plate moves over a ‘hotspot’ of molten rock. The rock repeatedly punches through the Earth’s crust as lava, producing volcanoes that jut out above the ocean surface, eventually forming a chain of volcanic islands,' explains Dr Keith.

'Over time, corals spread across the island chain using the islands as ‘stepping stones’, while at the same time they remaining isolated from the rest of the Pacific. As a result, a distinct set of Hawaiian coral reefs arises.'

The team discovered that species’ traits, such as their age or ability to tolerate deeper habitats, have influenced the success of corals in moving from one region to another – probably because older and more versatile species have a greater likelihood of survival when entering new environments.

The discovery has big implications for coral reefs in the face of climate change.

'Climate change is leading to the loss of corals throughout the tropics. This study has shown that the diversity of corals we see today is the result of geological processes that occur over millions, even tens of millions, of years,' says Professor Sean Connolly, a co-author of the study.

'If we lose these coral-rich environments the recovery of this biodiversity will take a very long-time, so our results highlight just how critical it is to conserve the coral reefs that exist today.'

The paper 'Faunal breaks and species composition of Indo-Pacific corals: the role of plate tectonics, environment, and habitat distribution' by Sally Keith, Andrew Baird, Terry Hughes, Josh Madin and Sean Connolly appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society ARC website

RS Sailing 660x82 AUSLancer 40 yearsZhik AkzoNobelb 660x82

Related Articles

Rolex Fastnet Race - New high resolution tidal model
This new model covers the race area in unprecidented detail, with a resolution of 500m and time steps every 30 minutes. We have been working hard on a new high resolution model for North West Europe and we are excited to be able to offer you the opportunity to be the first to test it in anger for the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Posted on 30 Jul
Ocean Alliance and yachting industry clean up Sydney’s beaches
Take 3, the environment advocacy group collected over 20,000 pieces of plastic and 200 recyclable bottles and cans. Backed by the environment advocacy and education group, Take 3, the group collected over 20,000 pieces of plastic and 200 recyclable bottles and cans.
Posted on 24 Jul
Int Moth Worlds - Zhik returns to its spiritual home at 2017 Worlds
Zhik is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships Zhik, the innovative sailing apparel specialist, is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships. And, ten years on, the Moths are returning to their spiritual home on Lake Garda. Zhik and the International Moth class are virtually synonymous with each other.
Posted on 20 Jul
Caffari to lead a team with sustainability message in Volvo Ocean Race
Sixth confirmed team out of a possible eight for the upcoming edition will amplify United Nations Environment’s campaign Caffari’s ambition is to build a multi-national, 50-50 male/female squad, with the majority under 30 years of age. As part of the sustainability focus, the messages around diversity in age and gender will be strong themes of a campaign that in sporting terms may not start as a favourite, but could easily surprise on the water.
Posted on 13 Jun
Debbie says the 8thP with Insurance is Patience (Pt.II)
We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance. We looked at what it was like to come into a disaster zone and now we see the evidence of those that did the right thing, and how the area is already on the road to recovery.
Posted on 25 Apr
Ayr, Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays to meet Cyclone Debbie
Having intensified to a Cat4 TC now, Debbie is expected to hit during the course of Monday night and into Tuesday mornin Having intensified to a Cat3 TC now and Cat4 when it will make landfall, Debbie is expected to hit during the course of Monday night and into Tuesday morning (0400hrs). Thus far, there have been police enforced evacuations around Ayr, as it is expected that this will be the biggest event since the all-powerful TC5 Yasi hit back in 2011. There are also reports of residents refusing to leave
Posted on 26 Mar
When whales meet sails
CAMPER helmsman Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermudez found himself nearly face to face with whale in middle of North Atlantic Ocean. Currently the database for marine mammal strikes is very sparse. We are requesting sailors and boaters help to submit information on current and past incidents, however long ago that may be. By giving a location, date, identification if possible, and any other relevant information you can help scientists better understand where marine mammals are at risk for strikes
Posted on 8 Jan
Vendée Globe – Uncertainty about weather condition in North Atlantic
Alex Thomson and Armel le Cléac'h are probably looking closely at the wind models for the North Atlantic. Alex Thomson and Armel le Cléac'h are probably looking closely at the wind models for the North Atlantic. It does not seem to be easy.
Posted on 4 Jan
Seventh and Eighth blogs from on board Perie Banou II
Jon's tales from his epic 10th solo circumnavigation continues. Jon's tales from his epic 10th solo circumnavigation continues. This time he talks about the fierce gales and waves he met rounding the Cape of Good Hope. As always, it's told in Jon's unique and inimitable style...
Posted on 28 Dec 2016
Vendée Globe – Light winds for Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss
The first one to get out of it will have a nice north-westerly flow on the edge of the high pressure system. Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss are sailing in a complex weather system in a light wind zone. The first one to get out of it will have a nice north-westerly flow on the edge of the high pressure system.
Posted on 15 Dec 2016