University of Miami scientists have found that corals with more symbiotic algae bleach more severely, according to a release from the university. Coral bleaching, occurring when algae are expelled, can lead to coral death because algae provide energy needed to build reefs.
Researchers monitored cauliflower corals collected from the Pacific coast of Panama in a lab setting for six months and found them to be more vulnerable to bleaching in environments that encourage algae growth, such as water sources polluted by wastewater or agricultural runoff. By analyzing DNA samples, the team was able to determine the ratio of algae cells to coral cells and discover that coral with more algae bleached more severely.
Results of the study are published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Support for the study came from university fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation.
Image: Bleached coral (Credit: Samuel Chow, via Flickr)