A New Study Reveals Secrets of Coral Reef Survival
A new study conducted by scientists from the University of Southampton (Great Britain) has shed light on the mysterious “paradox of the coral reefs of Darwin.” This phenomenon, which has intrigued scientists since the time of Charles Darwin, refers to the ability of coral reefs to thrive in waters with limited nutrients.
The research, published in Nature, shows that corals benefit from their symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae known as photosynthetic symbionts. These tiny organisms reside inside the cells of corals and provide them with crucial nutrients. Through this “vegetarian” diet, corals are able to access and extract nutrients that were previously believed to be inaccessible. According to Professor Jorg Videnmann, head of the coral reef laboratory at the University of Southampton, this discovery adds a missing element to the long-standing puzzle.
In their experiments, the scientists discovered that corals absorb a portion of their symbionts to acquire nitrogen and phosphorus. This process promotes the rapid growth of corals in natural conditions.
The researchers focused their attention on corals thriving around islands in the Indian Ocean. Some of these islands are home to nesting birds, whose excrement serves as a nutrient source for corals. The results showed that coral growth on these reefs is twice as fast as on reefs without birds.
Despite these fascinating findings, coral reefs face a significant threat from global warming. Rising water temperatures can lead to a decline in nutrient intake. New data suggests that while corals can survive short-term nutrient shortages by consuming their symbionts, prolonged nutrient depletion caused by global warming poses a real threat to their survival.