Heat waves are roasting reefs, but some corals may be resilient | Science News

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Heat waves are roasting reefs, but some corals may be resilient

New research examines damage from heat and gives projections for the future

11:07am, April 20, 2018
Acropora millepora

IN HOT WATER  Staghorn coral (Acropora millepora) may be able to last 100­ to 250 years thanks to its ability to adapt to warming waters. Here, a healthy staghorn grows off Magnetic Island in the central part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

It’s no secret that warming ocean waters have devastated many of the world’s coral reefs. For instance, a 2016 marine heat wave killed 30 percent of coral in the Great Barrier Reef, a study published online April 18 in Nature reports. But some coral species may be able to adapt and survive in warmer waters for another century, or even two, a second team reports April 19 in PLOS Genetics. And that offers a glimmer of hope for future ocean biodiversity.

“What we’ve just experienced [in the Great Barrier Reef] is one hell of a natural selection experiment,” says coral reef expert Terry Hughes of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. In total, about 50 percent of the reef’s corals have died since 2016, he says. A bright side, maybe: “The ones that are left

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