Research highlight

Florida Keys coral keep up growth rate

Nature Communications

March 2, 2011

A species of subtropical coral that grows off the Florida Keys seems to have withstood environmental changes, over a sixty year period up to 1996, according to research in Nature Communications this week. The subtropical location of these reefs may be a contributing factor to their persistent ability to grow and calcify under less than optimal environmental conditions — although the authors did not study the period from 1996 onwards.Ocean acidification, due to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, combined with rising sea surface temperatures is thought to cause the degradation of coral reef ecosystems by reducing calcification and growth.Kevin Helmle and colleagues report on the trends, variability and decadal averages of coral growth records from seven subtropical reefs located in the Florida Keys from 1937 to 1996. While the results do not mean that the coral reefs in question are necessarily healthy, the study suggests that growth rates in this species of subtropical coral of the Florida Keys have been tolerant to recent climatic changes up to the time of their collection in 1996.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1222

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