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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid