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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More