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Climate and Corals

March 6, 2007

Climate change is endangering coral reefs around the world.


Climate change and coral reefs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Global warming might seem like a distant threat to most people, but to coral reefs it’s a clear and present danger. Evolutionary ecologist Drew Harvell of Cornell says warm temperatures seem to weaken corals’ immune systems while at the same time causing diseases to flourish: a one-two punch. What’s more, corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae that provide them with oxygen and nutrients.

DREW HARVELL (Cornell University):
And the algae are actually very sensitive to changes in temperature and so even a one or two degree increase in temperature can cause the symbiosis to fall apart and the coral can die.

In fact, coral reefs around the world have been dying from these effects of warming. Harvell and others hope to save those that remain by finding ways to boost their immunity, kill their diseases, and protect them from people.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.