- Category: Green Tips
- By Christy Sakaziro - firstname.lastname@example.org - Palau & Micronesia Humanities Project Director
DOCTOR Yimnang Kolbuu and a team of scientists at the Palau International Coral Reef Center are studying a complex set of natural and human-influenced factors that affect a reef’s vulnerability to bleaching. These factors include temperature, salinity, water turbidity, weather conditions and species composition.
By cross-comparing temperatures and other data, they are gaining a better understanding of how some of these factors interact.
A recent study conducted by Stanford University scientists indicated that there are several corals that can prosper in stressful environmental conditions.
Scientists now believe that frequent, pulsing exposure to high temperatures may make corals stronger, much in the same way athletes train for competition.
They said understanding why some of the world’s toughest corals are heat-tolerant could help scientists identify and map other survivor coral colonies around the globe.
“We know that corals have the ability to adapt and evolve to warmer water than we thought before,” Steve Palumbi, a professor of marine sciences, director of Hopkins Marine Station told Standford News Service.
“We can use that as a primary asset to help them live through the next decades until we solve global climate change,” added Palumbi who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
According to the Stanford News Service:
“Over the course of [a 17-day] study period, Palumbi and Lupita Ruiz-Jones, who was a graduate student in the Palumbi lab at the time of the research, monitored over 17,000 coral genes at just after noon each day. On the seventh and eighth day, when tides were lowest and temperatures hottest, the corals’ genes initiated the cellular unfolded protein response. On day nine, the tides rose and the corals’ systems returned to normal.
“ ‘This response just shows how in sync corals are with their environment,’ said Ruiz-Jones, who was first author on the paper and is now a lecturer at Stanford.
“This stress response is not unique to corals. It’s been observed in mammals as well as some yeast species. Humans activate the same ancient genes in response to diseases, like cancer. In times of stress, a cell’s misfolded and unfolded proteins accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum, a series of flattened, tube-like structures in the cell that assist with building proteins. The unfolded protein response is a reaction to the flood of misassembled proteins.
“ ‘It’s basically the organism recognizing that something isn’t right,’ ” Ruiz-Jones said.