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14th January 2023 (5 Topics)

Heat stress more dangerous to corals than ocean acidification

Context

Global warming poses a more significant threat to coral growth and reef accretion than ocean acidification (OA), according to a new study. 

How heat stress affects corals more than ocean acidification?

  • Ocean acidification slows the rate at which coral reefs generate calcium carbonate, thus slowing the growth of coral skeletons.
  • Heat stress directly affects coral performance in hospite exacerbation of light stress in the symbionts, whereas ocean acidification induces moderate effects on coral metabolism, some of them even positive.
  • As temperatures rise, mass coral bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent.

Role of corals 

  • Corals are animals. Coral reefs boost biodiversity, buffer storms and support the livelihoods of over one billion people.
  • Coral reefs do not absorb carbon and do not play a direct role in climate change mitigation. However, they are important for climate adaptation.
  • In the last decade, the world lost about 14 per cent of its coral reefs.

Required measures

  • A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that enable corals to tolerate heat can significantly improve coral reef conservation and restoration efforts
Understanding the terms
  • Heat Stress: Thermal stress is a term to describe a temperature change that is severe enough to cause unfavourable and even lethal conditions to aquatic organisms, their populations, community structure, or the ecosystem.
  • Ocean acidification: Ocean acidification describes the lowering of seawater pH and carbonate saturation that results from increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

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