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A Coral Reef to Save All Coral Reefs

January 16, 2014

It is rare to find a rational source of optimism for those who work in marine conservation. Because of this, I really quite enjoyed reading this piece that suggests that some species of corals in Palau may be able to survive in highly acidic waters.  If it is true, then we just might be able to ‘save’ coral reefs by seeding them with more resilient species.

Here’s an excerpt:

There’s coral everywhere.The bottom is carpeted with fan corals, big boulder-shaped corals, long green tendril-y corals, even squishy corals, all jockeying for position. There are bright, colorful fish too. It’s a parade of life. But here’s the thing — Cohen says this raucous coral ecosystem shouldn’t even exist. The water is way too acidic.

“We started taking water samples,” she says, casting back to an earlier visit here. “We analyzed them, and we couldn’t believe it. Of the 17 coral reef systems (around the world) that we’ve been monitoring, this is the most acidic site that we’ve found.” The higher acidity of the water here is natural, but it defies all expectations. Conventional wisdom is that corals don’t like acidic water, and the water in Nikko Bay is acidic enough that it should keep many of these corals from building up their calcium carbonate skeletons.

Even weirder, Cohen says, is that the acidity goes up as you move from the barrier reefs offshore into Palau’s island bays, and that as that happens, the coral cover and the coral diversity increase as well.

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