Warming oceans are changing Australia’s coral reefs

Rising ocean temperatures are affecting shallow coral reefs and the organisms that live there. However, these effects are unknown due to the paucity of accurate local data.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/katatonia82

For more than ten years, a group of scientists in Australia have been monitoring the country’s coral reefs and their changes. The researchers used accurate data to show the effects of rising waters on tropical and temperate reef fish communities.

The study was published in the journal current biology On September 22second abbreviation2022.

Coral reefs provide so many benefits to people, from food, livelihood, entertainment, physical protection from storms, and dare I say even happiness and inspiration. We specifically took into account the fish that live on coral reefs, because they are important to many of those aspects, and also help maintain the natural ecological function of coral reefs..

Rick Stewart Smith, lead author of the study and marine ecologist, University of Tasmania

Global data is collected through the Reef Life Survey, developed by Stuart Smith and co-author Graham Edgar to provide global information on the state of Australia’s coral reefs. Data from two other important coral reef monitoring programs were combined with information from the Australian Coral Life Survey for this research.

The other two data sets we used are among the longest running of any coral reef biodiversity monitoring programs globally. Combining these data sets has provided a more comprehensive picture of what is happening on coral reefs than can be imagined on any other continent..

Rick Stewart Smith, lead author of the study and marine ecologist, University of Tasmania

Research groups have examined temperature and habitat change, such as coral bleaching, and discovered that the effects differ depending on where the reef is located.

Tropical reef fish were more affected by habitat change, while fish in temperate and subtropical reefs reacted to temperature change.

Temperate coral reefs were invaded by tropical fish when a marine heat wave in 2011 warmed the seas in southern Australia. These types persisted for years after the accident.

The researchers also evaluated how the loss of kelp and coral cover led to fewer unique fish. Areas of northeastern Australia have revealed evidence of habitat degradation that has resulted in general species dominating fish populations rather than specialized species adapted to specific habitats.

Stuart Smith is optimistic that the current study will advance intensive, standardized and coordinated local research, which can be used to assess global trends more effectively. The group is also calling for future research on coral reefs and climate.

The authors concluded,Climate change is clearly having an enormous impact on marine biodiversity, with changes we have observed around the Australian continent over short periods of time, indicating that much larger changes are likely over the next half century as ocean warming progresses.. “

magazine reference

Stuart Smith, RD, and others. (2022) widely track climate changes in temperate and tropical reefs. current biology. doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.07.067.