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Underwater gardens increase coral diversity and stop “biodiversity collapse”

Coral reef garden in French Polynesia. Credits: Georgia Tech

Corals are the foundation of tropical reefs around the world, but stress from overfishing to pollution and warming of the ocean kills corals and reduces the important ecosystem services they provide. Scientists know that loss of coral leads to loss of other reef species, as coral builds structures that create living spaces for many other species. However, the importance of coral species diversity to the coral itself was not well understood.


A new study by two Georgia Institute of Technology researchers provides both hope and a potentially harsh future for damaged coral reefs.The study was published on October 13th Science Advances, Cody Clements and Mark Hay have found that increasing coral abundance by “planting” diverse groups of corals. Race Together it improves coral growth and survival. This finding may be particularly important in the early stages of reef recovery after major coral loss, and in supporting healthy reefs, which support fishing, tourism and coastal protection from storm surges.

Scientists also better understand the mechanisms that produce these positive species interactions with the dual purpose of improving reef conservation and facilitating faster and more efficient recovery of degraded reefs. , Seeking additional research to take advantage of.

However, the ecological pendulum also swings in the opposite direction. The loss of more coral species can, through synergies, threaten other species that Clements and Hay call the “biodiversity meltdown.”

“Yes, corals are the foundation species of these ecosystems and provide habitat and food for many other coral reef species,” said Clements, a Teesley Postdoctoral Fellow of the Faculty of Biological Sciences. .. “Adverse effects on corals often have a chain effect on other species that call coral reefs home. If biodiversity is important to coral performance and resilience,“ biodiversity meltdown. Can exacerbate the decline of coral reef ecosystems observed around the world. “

Clements and Hay visit Moorea, French Polynesia in the tropical Pacific, plant coral gardens with different coral species varieties, and interact and compete as corals grow and interact over time. We evaluated the relative importance of certain interactions.

Hay, Professor Regent and Teasley Chair of the Department of Life Sciences, said: Hay is also the co-director of the Georgia Institute of Technology Graduate School of Marine Science and Engineering program. “We are still investigating the mechanisms that cause this amazing result, but our experiments consistently show that positive interactions overwhelm negative interactions. Leaf Settings for conducting these experiments. That is, removing seeds from the system removes some of those positive interactions, and removing important interactions can make a big difference. “

Underwater gardens increase coral diversity and stop

Coral garden close-up. Credit: Georgia Techg

Under the sea, a garden where corals grow, shade

Coral reefs are under threat all over the world. Hay, according to the EPA The Caribbean has lost 80 to 90 percent of its coral cover.. In the Indo-Pacific region, half of all corals have been lost in the last 30 years.Between 2015-2016 bleaching phenomenon Alone, almost half of the remaining corals along the Great Barrier Reef were bleached and died.

“These frequencies Big bleaching and heating event What is killing corals has increased quite dramatically over the last 20 to 30 years, “he said. Coral reef That’s fine, but it’s small and generally isolated. “

In a French Polynesian coral garden, Hay and Clements manipulate the variety of coral species planted on a platform that resembles an underwater chess table, and species abundance and density affect coral productivity and survival. I checked if it was.

Hay said in many previous similar experiments that he brought corals into the laboratory and “matched the species against each other.” However, he points out that: “We are doing all the experiments in the real world. can It happens, but whether it is NS Occur. “

The experimental setup proposed by Clements, including a cola bottle, helped scientists prepare their garden. “The Coca-Cola bottle cap is embedded in the top of the end table,” Hay said. “Then you can cut off the neck of the cola bottle, glue the coral to the upside-down neck of these things, and then screw it in and out of these compartments, so you just need to place the seeds you need. Not all seeds can be placed. You can unscrew and weigh for several months to get accurate growth rates. “

Researchers have found that corals benefit from increased biodiversity, but “to some extent,” Clements said. “Corals planted in gardens of a medium number of species (mostly 3-6 species) performed better than low, 1, high, or high gardens, such as 9 species. But we still don’t fully understand the process that contributed to these observations. “

Clements said their research needed further research. Why do corals perform better in mixed communities than in single communities? Why does this biodiversity effect decrease rather than continue to increase at the highest levels? Coral Diversity? “Protecting corals by taking advantage of how diversity affects these processes and the positive impacts of biodiversity to predict how biodiversity loss will affect corals. We need to better understand how to do this, “says Clements.


Global warming kills 14 percent of the world’s corals in 10 years


For more information:
Cody S. Clements, biodiversity, has a positive but saturated effect on distressed coral reefs. Science Advances (2021). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abi8592.. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abi8592

Quote: Underwater gardens increase coral diversity and avoid “biodiversity meltdown” (October 13, 2021).

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Underwater gardens increase coral diversity and stop “biodiversity collapse”

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