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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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 Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs