Corals use epigenetic tricks to adapt to warmer and “more acidic” water

After half a billion million years of climate change, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that life on Earth (and specifically corals) have so many ways to cope with the climate changing. After all, it’s natural (if you are trained by Greenpeace) to assume that corals can only survive in a world with one constant stable temperature just like they never had.

One more tool in the coral-reef-workshop

Corals don’t just have a tool-box, they have a Home Depot Warehouse. h/t to GWPF

We already knew corals chuck out the symbionts that don’t work so well and pick up better partners. Plus, evolution left a stack of genes lying around that were honed in a world that was warmer, and natural selection has a way of amplifying better combinations as conditions shift. Then there is the way corals can be reseeded from safe sites, far away. Now we find out that corals can use epigenetics too.

Epigenetics is that kind of spooky effect where people can inherit the exact same DNA code yet it works or doesn’t work depending on whether it was Dad’s copy, or Mum’s, or whether parents were starved, fearful or stressed. It’s weird, see […]

Corals already have the genes to survive another 250 years of climate change

A new paper finds that there is already enough genetic variety spread across the Great Barrier Reef to adapt to the imagined “unprecedented” warming coming in the next two centuries. We don’t need to rely on random mutations or consider fantasy solutions of man-made oceanic sunscreens, mass sunshades, or giant reef fans. Corals already have a major immigration program running pretty effectively to juggle 200 million years of genetic material and then spread the successes far and wide. Meddling humans can help things (maybe) by moving a few bits of coral around. That’s it. Cancel the scare please.

Skeptics have been saying this for years — who needs a computer model to predict that the Barrier Reef will adapt? How bad could global warming be? The global oceans span a 32C range and corals prefer the hottest five degrees of that. Indeed, there is a five degree temperature range from one end of the Great Barrier Reef to the other, and corals are clearly, obviously pretty happy about it. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is warming at a mere tenth of a degree per decade. Then there is the well known phenomenon that corals spawn in vast clouds that are […]

Thin sunscreen layer to *save reef from bleaching* for first time in twenty million years

Scientists are suggesting that a thin layer of floating calcium carbonate can cut sunlight over reefs by 30% and save some high value reefs from bleaching.

This should work well on all the reefs that evolved in the last fifty years and which don’t have moving water.

But half of the coral genera around today have been around since the Oligocene (23-34 million years ago) and for most of that time the oceans were warmer. (Lucky human civilization evolved just in time to save all these reefs from extinction.)

Bleaching has probably been going on for millions of years longer than we have been scuba diving with cameras to film it. We only discovered coral bleaching in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, marine life has ways to adapt to heatwaves by chucking out the symbionts that don’t thrive in higher temperatures and replacing them with new inhabitants that do.

Yes, let’s cover our most diverse and important reef systems with an artificial layer that cuts incoming sunlight by a third — What could possibly go wrong?

Ultra-fine film possible saviour for Great Barrier Reef

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Biology say tests of a floating […]

*Surprise* Great Barrier Reef has 112 tough spots that survive and replenish the rest

After lasting for thousands of years through wild swings of temperature, scientists could never have guessed that the Great Barrier Reef has evolved to cope with climate change.

The reef spans 2,300km and has spawning events so large that they can be viewed from space, but who knew that some parts of the reef appear to be safer and more resilient, and would repopulate the rest of the reef? (Apparently, not most of the scientists who have been selling the message of doom). Instead it made sense that 100% of the reef was at the same risk from predatory starfish and hot months, and that any day now, the reef might be polished off for good.

Perhaps some scientists had an idea, but when newspaper headlines declared the reef was on the brink of extinction, or doomed, where were they? (Possibly in hiding — afterall, Peter Ridd is one of the only ones to speak out, and he’s now fighting to save his job).

Crikey! It restores how much?

From the abstract:

The great replenishment potential of these ‘robust source reefs’, which may supply 47% of the ecosystem in a single dispersal event, emerges from the […]

Scientists surprised that reef that survived the hotter holocene is already recovering from 2016 bleaching

Coral which has produced eggs near Fitzroy Island. Photo AIMS, Neal Cantin.

The ABC reports today that the Great Barrier Reef is recovering “surprisingly” fast.

Optimism is rising among scientists that parts of the Great Barrier Reef that were severely bleached over the past two years are making a recovery.

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science this month surveyed 14 coral reefs between Cairns and Townsville to see how they fared after being bleached.

The institute’s Neil Cantin said they were surprised to find the coral had already started to reproduce.

Who would have thought that after 5,000 years of climate change, sea level change, temperature change and super-storms every 200 years — that the Great Barrier Reef would have something left up its sleeve?

Much of the ABC reporting on the Great Barrier Reef damage uses vague terms. If I was feeling cruel, I might call them “weasel words”:

Nearly two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by bleaching in 2016 and 2017, killing up to 50 per cent of coral in those parts.

So which parts are “those parts”? Did 50% of the corals die […]

Scientists “thrilled”: fish cope with acidification if tanks mimic normal large daily CO2 swings

The real story here is that past scares claiming that ocean acidification would create reckless fish were most likely an artefact of an inadequate experiment. There are big swings of CO2 and pH in shallow water environments, and the normal day-night cycle turns out to be good for fish. Putting them in a laboratory tank without these daily changes may create fish that behave badly. So ocean acidification is not only natural, but a good and necessary thing.

New hope for reef fish living in a high CO2 world

Chemical changes in the ocean, as a result of climate change, are leading to a more acidic environment, referred to as ‘ocean acidification’ (OA). In a laboratory setting, these changes have been shown to lead to a range of risky behaviours in the affected fish, with some fish unable to flee from their finned foes effectively.

But, when researchers recalibrated experiments to adjust for natural daily changes in concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary chemical driver of OA, they found that the fish were less affected than previously thought.

“Shallow water habitats where reef fish live can experience substantial natural fluctuations […]

Corals survive 542m years of supervolcano, asteroids, 125m sea level change only to go extinct any year now

Will Corals Survive?, asks a group of international scientists.

Corals first appeared 540 million years ago, but having made it through supervolcanoes, mass extinctions, and an asteroid impact equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima A-bombs, it’s now likely they will be wiped out because a trace gas has risen from 20% up to 25% of levels common for half of the last 300 million years.

Source: www.geocraft, Scotese and Berner 2001

Having made it through the volatile last 65 million years, and multiple ice ages where the oceans rose and fell by as much as 125m repeatedly, it will be tragic if the current man-made warming phase wipes them out. According to one thousand tide gauges the worlds oceans are relentlessly rising by 1mm every year. While corals coped with the last 125,000mm of sea level rise, it’s not clear they will still be around if it rises another 20mm.

Current climate change marked in

The team of 22 researchers admit “there is still a lot to understand about corals,” and “there are major knowledge gaps”. But despite not knowing much, the experts on marine ecosystems advise that “our only real chance for their survival” is to control the […]

World is going to hell but we’re finding new coral reefs everywhere…

Click to enlarge map.

2016 was a good year for coral surprizes. Until recently no one even knew that corals could grow just out from the river-mouth of the Amazon. Then 9,300 square kilometers of reef was found living in a region no one thought corals could grow.

Volunteers found very nice reefs in Morton Bay, not far from the ferry route, but entirely “unexpected” and “better than tourist sites”. Researchers also found another 4.000 square kilometers of reef off Queensland, hidden under 20m of water.

In every media article the corals were immediately called into action against mining, farming, stuff like that. Journalists talk to scientists and head straight over to Greenpeace. The poor corals are politicized before they’d even been put on a tourist map.

Somehow scientists that are wrong are always described as surprised, excited or astonished. Other professions dream that their errors would be recounted this way. (Think –tax accountants, pilots, politicians…) . In terms of hard questions from the media, the only group that gets it easier than Hillary Clinton are scientists. Not that I’m saying they should have known, but the same profession that talks about 97% certainty can’t also get a free […]

Great Barrier Reef: 5% bleached, not 93% says new report “discrepancy phenomenal”

In a nutshell: a government funded group finds some bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef, and repackages the stats to come up with the apocalyptic statistic that only 7% of the reef is not bleached! The SMH reported that “93% of the corals” are damaged. The reef is 2,000 kilometers long. Did anyone really think about these headlines?

Then in a development that “no one” could see coming, local tourism is damaged, potentially costing a lot of jobs.

“And the loss of these tourists could cost our tourism industry a whopping $1 billion a year, a report out today by The Australia Institute warned.”

This inspires local dive operators (who possibly know what the reef looks like) to pay for a two week expedition to survey 28 sites. They find about 5% damage and describe the difference as phenomenal. Indeed, they say the reef is pretty much just like it was 20 years ago when they last did a survey.

We know that both sides have an interest finding a healthy or unhealthy reef. The problem starts with self-serving taxpayer funded scientists who are paid to find a crisis. But they would not get away with it […]

Great Barrier Reef scare: exaggerated threats says head of GBR Authority

The ABC uses photos of reef bleaching on Flowerpot Rock in American Samoa in stories about the Great Barrier Reef.

The chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Russell Reichelt says that activist groups are distorting surveys, maps and data to exaggerate the coral bleaching on the reef. The bleaching affects 22% of the reef and is mostly localized to the far northern section, which has good prospects of recovery.

Two reef groups are in conflict. One is Reichelt’s GBR Authority, and the other is a special “National Coral Bleaching Taskforce” run by a guy called Terry Hughes. The Australian media was overrun with stories last week about how a report was censored to hide the damage. What was under-reported was the conflict and the propaganda.

The real problem appears to be that yet another agency was set up to find a crisis, and their existence depends on finding one. The Taskforce was set up in October last year.

ABC repeats all the Taskforce’s claims without question: “Great Barrier Reef: Only 7 per cent not bleached, survey finds”.

The Taskforce’s report was so bad the GBR authority had to withdraw from it:

Great Barrier Reef: scientists […]

Researchers astonished: Coral reefs thriving in a more “acidic” ocean

Palau Islands

The researchers at Woods Hole have spent four years doing a comprehensive study at Palau Rock Islands in the far Western Pacific, where pH levels are naturally “more acidic” (which is big-government speak for less alkaline). Because of laboratory experiments Barkley et al [1] expected to find all kinds of detrimental effects, but instead found a diverse healthy system they describe as “thriving” with “greater coral cover” and more “species”.

A new study led by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that the coral reefs there seem to be defying the odds, showing none of the predicted responses to low pH except for an increase in bioerosion — the physical breakdown of coral skeletons by boring organisms such as mollusks and worms. The paper is to be published June 5 in the journal Science Advances.

‘Based on lab experiments and studies of other naturally low pH reef systems, this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT joint program in oceanography.

Experiments measuring corals’ responses to a variety of low pH conditions have shown a range of negative impacts, […]

Did an ice sheet collapse 120,000 years ago pushing sea levels up to 9m higher than today?

Proving that nature can outdo anything humans have done, a new paper shows that sea-levels off Western Australia may have risen as high as 9 m above the current level during the last warm period over a hundred thousand years ago. The authors (O’Leary et al) conclude that seas were 3-4 m higher for most of the last warm period (known as the Eemian) but towards the end of the period a large sudden rise occurred. They suggest that an ice shelf collapsed in Antarctica or Greenland or both, causing a 5m rise (17 feet).

The point of the paper was this double spiked shape of the sea level rise during the last warm interglacial known as the Eemian.

The Age interviewed O’Leary who said “he was confident that the 17-foot jump happened in less than a thousand years – how much less, he cannot be sure.”

Figure 3 j Relative sea-level curve for Western Australia. Ageomorphically defined palaeoMSL datum of C2:5m 120 kyr ago (Fig. 1c) anchors a predicted relative sea-level curve at Red Bluff, which includes a GIA signal based on the test calculation (see Methods) plus the following ESL history: ESL jumps from 0 to 3.4m […]

Hottest reefs on Earth make a nice home for corals?

If Earth warms by 2 degrees The Great Barrier Reef is a goner, or maybe not. Tropical reefs are generally about 28C but even a one degree rise above normal temperatures can bleach corals.

This latest paper by Hume et al, showed that some corals survive in the hottest reefs on Earth which are in the Arabian/Persian Gulf and are a whopping 36 degrees C. In order to survive, corals do deals with symbiotic algae, but these are very sensitive to changes in temperature (or so we thought):

Reefs are made up of many species of coral, each of which have a mutually beneficial, or “symbiotic”, relationship with algae living in their tissue. These algae supply vital nutrition to the host but are sensitive to environmental changes including increases in seawater temperature.

Even a temperature rise of just one degree Celsius can harm the symbiotic algae, which in turn can increase mortality in corals. The associated loss of symbiotic algae is known as “coral bleaching” because the white skeletons of the corals become visible through the tissue depleted from the algal pigments.

Obviously those Gulf coral survive those wildly high temperatures with freak heat-loving-symbiotic-algae that can’t survive in normal oceans […]

One vulnerable coral type adapts to ocean acidification in just 6 months

Credit: S. Ross et al., UNCW

We already know that pH varies naturally across the oceans of the world. In some sites, it varies more in a single day than global oceans are likely to face in a century.

But cold water corals live in deep water, are slow growing, and hard to study.

Six years ago, experts in cold water corals were telling us how they would be likely to fall victim to ocean acidification first, and that they believed this for good reasons but with little experimental data. But about a year ago data came out (by one of those same experts) showing that rather than being the badly affected, cold water corals adapted to effectively very high levels of CO2 and possibly even increased their calcification rates. Eight days after the pH was changed suddenly, the corals did worse. But when the experiment was continued for six months, the results turned right around. The researchers pointed out how useful longer studies are: “This is the first evidence of successful acclimation in a coral species to ocean acidification, emphasizing the general need for long-term incubations”. The paper is called “Acclimation to ocean acidification during long-term CO2 exposure […]

The chemistry of ocean pH and “acidification”

The ocean acidification threat is a big can of worms. I asked Professor Brice Bosnich to help create a quick reference page on the chemistry and was pleased he could find the time to help. Here’s everything you wanted to know about the basics…

He explains what pH means, and points out that:

Ocean pH varies by 0.3 naturally. Claims of acidification since 1750 are based on dubious models and few observations.

There are reasons to assume that marine life will not be overly affected by an increase in ocean acidity due to atmospheric carbon dioxide:

Ocean life evolved and survived far higher levels of CO2 for millions of years in the past. Marine organisms actively create carbonate shells (using energy) which means crustacea, corals and molluscs aren’t automatically prey to pH changes in the same way that say a limestone rock would be. The world’s oceans may have warmed a mere 0.17C since 1955, hardly a significant threat to marine life.

We also find out that acidic water is added to the ocean from rainfall and floods (and he explains why raindrops will always be acidic).

There are more pressing threats. — Jo


Guest Post by Professor […]

The debate continues: Dr Glikson v Joanne Nova

Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist, at the Australian National University) contacted Quadrant offering to write about the evidence for man-made global warming. Quadrant approached me asking for my response. Dr Glikson replied to my reply, and I replied again to him (copied below). No money exchanged hands, but Dr Glikson is, I presume, writing in an employed capacity, while I write pro bono. Why is it that the unpaid self taught commentator needs to point out the evidence he doesn’t seem to be aware of? Why does a PhD need to be reminded of basic scientific principles (like, don’t argue from authority). Such is the vacuum of funding for other theories that a debate that ought to happen inside the university obviously hasn’t occurred. Such is the decrepit, anaemic state of university science that even a doctorate doesn’t guarantee a scientist can reason. Where is the rigor in the training, and the discipline in the analysis?

Credibility lies on evidence

by Joanne Nova

April 29, 2010

Reply to Andrew Glikson

Dr Andrew Glikson still misses the point, and backs his arguments with weak evidence and logical errors. Instead of empirical evidence, often […]