Importance of nutrients for coral reef survival revealed
Researchers at the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton have highlighted the importance of nutrients for coral reef survival.
Despite the comparably small footprint they take on the ocean floor, tropical coral reefs are home to a substantial part of all marine life forms. Coral reefs also provide numerous benefits for human populations, providing food for millions and protecting coastal areas from erosion. Moreover, they are a treasure chest of potential pharmaceuticals and coral reef tourism provides recreation and income for many.
Unfortunately, coral reefs are declining at an alarming rate. To promote management activities that can help coral reef survival, an international group of world renowned scientists have summarised the present knowledge about the challenges that coral reefs are facing now and in the future.
The University of Southampton researchers who are based at the Coral Reef Laboratory in the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, explain that "too many" nutrients can be as bad for corals as "not enough".
"The nutrient biology of coral reefs is immensely complex. It is important to distinguish between the different direct and indirect effects that a disturbance of the natural nutrient environment can have on a coral reef ecosystem," Dr Jorg Wiedenmann, Professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of Southampton and Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory said.
Since corals live in a symbiotic relationship with microscopically small plant cells, they require certain amounts of nutrients as "fertiliser". In fact, the experimental addition of nutrients can promote coral growth.
"One should not conclude from such findings, however, that nutrient enrichment is beneficial for coral reefs - usually the opposite is true," Dr Cecilia D'Angelo, Senior Research Fellow in the Coral Reef Laboratory and co-author on the article, said.
The study is published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.
(Posted on 01-03-2014)