Slow-growing corals are becoming more dominant, study says
Chennai March 13, 2018: Certain species of corals have been found to survive temperature rise and disturbances in weather patterns in the Lakshwadeep and this knowledge may be useful for setting up coral management systems in other regions too, said Ms Shreya Yadav, doctoral student studying coral reef ecology at the University of Hawaii at a seminar held today at MSSRF.
Coral reefs are considered as critical ecosystems in the shallow marine environment. They are equal to the tropical rain forests in terms of diversity of species supported by the system. It provides shelter to a variety of organisms ranging from microscopic plankton to larger mammals like dolphins. During the 2004 tsunami, it was observed that healthy coral reefs reduced the speed as well as the height of the tsunami waves and saved loss of life and property in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka and certain places in Indonesia.
In her talk, she has tried to answer the question of how and whether reefs in the Lakshadweep are responding to climate-change related disturbances and how they are recovering, using two years as points of reference i.e. 1998 and 2010. During this period her study revealed that the extent of coral declining in Lakshwadeep from climate change activities was falling, even as the severity of the disturbances had increased.
In 2016, the worst year in relation to El Nino events, the decline in corals was about 31% compared to an 87% fall in 1998 when the El Nino effect was milder. “The reefs have become more resistant over time – even as the total amount of live coral is much less now”, she said. “There has been a compositional shift in Lakshadweep’s refs from corals that are competitive – fast-growing and complex but vulnerable – to stress-resistant species – that are long lived and persistent but quite slow growing”, she added.
Dr Selvam, Executive Director, MSSF noted that these observations could be useful for large scale restoration programme of degraded coral reefs.
Prof Swaminathan, Founder MSSRF noted that although pollution is present in the oceans, the corals are resilient and will be able to cope. He also mentioned that genetic make-up of the coral species may also help them to adapt to various climate related disturbances. Microplastics are a problem and need to be addressed as they enter into other species in the ocean food chain, said Ms Shreya.
The seminar showed the major role corals play in maintaining the stability of island ecosystems by preventing extreme weather related events. Corals in fact largely make up the raw materials of islands, said Ms Shreya.
The seminar was attended by scientists, academicians and others.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.