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Study suggests coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change

Courtesy: Hagainativ/Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy: Hagainativ/Wikimedia Commons

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    Digital writers

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 5:42 PM -

    A new study by NOAA, California State University and the University of British Columbia suggests that coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change.

    It's a bit of welcome news for researchers, who had expressed fears the reefs may be extinct by mid-century.

    "Our study shows that if corals can adapt to warming that has occurred over the past 40 to 60 years, some coral reefs may persist through the end of this century," said study lead author Cheryl Logan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at California State University, in a statement.

    Warming waters caused, in part, by carbon dioxide emissions can lead to a fatal process called coral "bleaching". Approximately half of the world's coral reefs have disappeared in the last 30 years.

    The study, which was published at Global Change Biology, suggests that past projections about coral reef survival did not take into account its ability to adapt to the changing climate.

    The new research states that with the help of natural adaptation, reefs could significantly reduce the projected rate of bleaching by up to 80% by 2100, if there are significant reductions to carbon dioxide emissions.

    "The hope this work brings is only achieved if there is significant reduction of human-related  emissions of heat-trapping gases," said Mark Eakin, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring program.

    "Adaptation provides no significant slowing in the loss of coral reefs if we continue to increase our rate of fossil fuel use."

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