SYDNEY – An international group of scientists urged on Thursday an immediate investigation into whether corals can acclimatize or adapt to climate change.
The experts has published a series of recommendations in the journal Nature on climate change at a moment critical for the Great Barrier Reef located in northeastern Australia and the world’s largest coral system..
“While our only real chance for their survival is to reverse climate change, a nugget of hope exists – that the corals may be able to adapt to their changing environment,” said Gergely Torda of James Cook University (JCU), in a statement.
Recent studies show that fish can adapt to an increase in water temperature as they have been exposed to these conditions through generations, but it is not yet known whether corals are capable of such adaptation.
“There are major knowledge gaps around how fast corals can adapt or acclimatize to changes in their environment, and by what mechanisms they might use to achieve this,” said co-author of the study, Philip Munday, also from the JCU.
Scientists differentiate acclimatization – which implies an organism’s response to environmental changes through non-genetic processes- from adaptation which implies inheriting a genetic change.
The Great Barrier Reef suffered two consecutive bleaching episodes in 2016 and 2017, which caused much damage to the corals.
The Great Barrier, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, have been suffering the effects of climate change since 1990 due to an increased emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and other natural and humans-related causes.