APR 06, 2020 6:25 AM PDT

Coral reefs' genetic diversity threatened by humans

We all know that coral reefs are under extensive threat from climate change and pollution, many facing complete devastation within decades or sooner. Now a new study from researchers at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) gives us another reason for concern: anthropologic environmental stressors are disrupting the genetic composition of reefs in Hawai'i.

Other studies, like the one mentioned in the video above, are investigating the genomes of coral reefs in an attempt to understand how coral reefs are adapting to climate change. The study from SOEST looked at how genetic composition, and in turn, reef resilience, is being affected by specific human actions such as coastal pollution and poor land-use practices.

The scientists looked at the genetic structure in the lobe coral Porites lobata in Maunalua Bay, Oahu and those from sites on West Maui. As they write in their study, they compared corals in highly variable and high-stress nearshore sites and adjacent less variable and less impacted offshore sites on the islands of Oahu and Maui, Hawaii.

They confirmed that there is a continued loss of sensitive genotypes in nearshore coral populations stemming as consequences of human actions. Specifically, they noticed that nearshore corals in these particular sites were more genetically similar than nearshore and offshore corals coming from the same island. Science Daily explains:

“This pattern can be described as isolation by environment in contrast to isolation by distance. This is an adaptive response by the corals to watershed discharges that contain sediment and pollutants from land.”

Photo: Pixabay

Co-author Robert Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, commented, "While the results were not surprising, they clearly demonstrate the critical need to control local sources of stress immediately while concurrently addressing the root causes of global climate change. Additionally, this innovative science shows the need to track biodiversity at multiple levels."

The researchers hope their findings will help guide coral reef managers to develop strategies that enhance coral reef resilience at a genetic level while simultaneously sounding an alarm for the general lay-person about their own personal habits. "This study shows the value of applying molecular tools to ecological studies supporting coral reef management," urges lead researcher Kaho Tisthammer.

Sources: Peer J, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 12, 2021
Plants & Animals
World Elephant Day - Elephant Conservation in Action
AUG 12, 2021
World Elephant Day - Elephant Conservation in Action
Elephants are the largest currently living land animals, and they are majestic. They must consume nearly 70,000 calories ...
AUG 21, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Celebrate Honeybees and Beekeepers on National Honeybee Day!
AUG 21, 2021
Celebrate Honeybees and Beekeepers on National Honeybee Day!
The third Saturday in August, this year the 21st, is National Honeybee Day! The date celebrates honeybee keepers and all ...
SEP 01, 2021
Earth & The Environment
An Introduction to Conservation Through Hunting
SEP 01, 2021
An Introduction to Conservation Through Hunting
Hunting and conservation are inextricably linked. Hunters are some of the most avid conservationists because they want t ...
SEP 22, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Farming Fish Sustainably
SEP 22, 2021
Farming Fish Sustainably
Fish farming has become a necessary practice as the population grows. It can be controversial among some groups because ...
SEP 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
How to Save the World's Coral Reefs? Global Reforestation
SEP 28, 2021
How to Save the World's Coral Reefs? Global Reforestation
With recent news of the world's coral supply standing at just 50% of what it was in the 1950s, any strategies for protec ...
SEP 30, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Illegal Cannabis Grow Sites Could be Poisoning Threatened Animals
SEP 30, 2021
Illegal Cannabis Grow Sites Could be Poisoning Threatened Animals
Cannabis has been legalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in many US states, which is thought to be driving a r ...
Loading Comments...