News / Science & Technology

Study: Great Barrier Reef Adapted Well to Past Climate Change

Great Barrier Reef Adapts in Past, Future Uncertaini
X
June 17, 2014 9:36 PM
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and is the world’s largest reef ecosystem. It is also among the most endangered, having lost half its coral cover in the last quarter century. While scientists fear that rising sea temperatures will irrevocably harm the Great Barrier Reef, as VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study charting its climate history finds that corals have survived and adapted to great fluctuations in the past.
Rosanne Skirble
Corals on the Great Barrier Reef adapted to greater temperature changes in the past than previously thought, a new study finds.  

The reef is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Stretching some 2,300 kilometers along Australia's northeastern coastline, it is an intricate mosaic of corals, cays and topical islands. The sprawling ecosystem teems with marine life and is a sanctuary for sea birds.

The scientists involved in the study want to understand how the reef has responded to a sea level rise and temperature change since the peak of the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago.
   
Study: Great Barrier Reef Adapted Well to Past Climate Change
Study: Great Barrier Reef Adapted Well to Past Climate Change i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“The major aim of our expedition was to reconstruct sea level so you can use fossil corals to reconstruct sea level," said paleo-climatologist Thomas Felis, who analyzed the data at the University of Bremen's Center for Marine Environmental Sciences. "And the Great Barrier Reef is a quite stable region in terms of tectonics of the Earth’s crust.  It is far away from continental glaciers so it gives a good global average of sea level variations.”    

In 2010, the expedition crew set out aboard the Greatship Maya, equipped with a drilling rig that would extract coral fossils from the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Felis notes that the global sea level then was 120 meters lower than it is today.

Paleo-climatologist Thomas Felis in his laboratory at the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences University of Bremen Germany inspects core samples from the Great Barrier Reef dating from the peak of the last ice age 20,000 years ago. (Credit: Volker DiPaleo-climatologist Thomas Felis in his laboratory at the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences University of Bremen Germany inspects core samples from the Great Barrier Reef dating from the peak of the last ice age 20,000 years ago. (Credit: Volker Di
x
Paleo-climatologist Thomas Felis in his laboratory at the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences University of Bremen Germany inspects core samples from the Great Barrier Reef dating from the peak of the last ice age 20,000 years ago. (Credit: Volker Di
Paleo-climatologist Thomas Felis in his laboratory at the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences University of Bremen Germany inspects core samples from the Great Barrier Reef dating from the peak of the last ice age 20,000 years ago. (Credit: Volker Di
“At that time all the ocean water was stored in the form of ice in the continental glaciers in the Northern hemisphere, Greenland and Antarctica,” he said.

But not in Australia, which was colder than it is now and unusually dry. Using surveys that identified reef like structures below the sea bed, Felis says remotely operated vehicles were sent down deep in the ocean to pinpoint exactly where to dig.

“We drilled down to 40 to 50 meters into the sediment, into the fossil structures and recovered corals," he said. "And once these corals were on deck we were able to identify corals and coral reef structures.”
 
A core containing fossil coral material is removed from the core barrel aboard the Greatship Maya. (Credit: G. Lott, ECORD/IODP)A core containing fossil coral material is removed from the core barrel aboard the Greatship Maya. (Credit: G. Lott, ECORD/IODP)
x
A core containing fossil coral material is removed from the core barrel aboard the Greatship Maya. (Credit: G. Lott, ECORD/IODP)
A core containing fossil coral material is removed from the core barrel aboard the Greatship Maya. (Credit: G. Lott, ECORD/IODP)

The crew recovered coral material between February and April, and shipped it to the Bremen Coral Repository in Germany for analysis says Felis, lead author of the study which was reported in Nature Communications.

“One of our major findings is that the Great Barrier Reef, since the last Ice Age, experienced much larger temperature changes than previously thought," Felis said.


In addition, Felis says sea surface temperatures were two to three degrees Celsius cooler along the southern Great Barrier Reef compared to the northern site they studied.  By contrast, he says, that difference today is 0.6 degrees Celsius.

“What we found [was] that these corals were quite happy," he said. "They adapted somehow to temperatures changes over a period of thousands of years. However, what we experience today is that we probably will have, in the next decades, temperature changes of the same magnitude. But it’s important to note that these are temperature changes that will happen within just 100 years and not thousands of years.”

Felis adds that the study does not infer that today’s Great Barrier Reef could be capable of easily adapting to a continued rise in ocean temperature. He says it does provide a framework for how the reef responded to past sea level rise and climate change to better understand future resilience.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: SkyderALERT from: New Jersey
June 25, 2014 9:36 AM
Container Manipulating the weather, oceans and other natural bodies is fighting with God!

Better stop doing it before you go through worse.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs