Giving Compass' Take:

• Corals in the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northernmost portion of the Red Sea, are particularly resilient against the effects of ocean warming compared to most corals. 

• How could this research help scientists understand the impact of climate change on oceans and help develop resilience planning?

• Learn how bleached coral reefs can change fish communities. 

Rapid ocean warming due to climate change is predicted to decimate 70 to 90% of the world’s coral reefs by mid-century, cite the researchers in their appeal to UNESCO to declare the Red Sea’s 2,500 miles of coral reef as a Marine World Heritage Site. They also recommend additional measures critical to the reef’s survival in their paper, which appears in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Corals in the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northernmost portion of the Red Sea, withstand water temperature irregularities that cause severe bleaching or mortality in most hard corals elsewhere. This uniquely resilient reef employs biological mechanisms that are likely to be important for coral survival as the planet’s oceans warm. But while the Gulf of Aqaba could potentially be one of the planet’s largest marine refuges from climate change, its reef will only survive and flourish if serious regional environmental challenges are addressed.

“Corals of the Gulf of Aqaba, in the northern Red Sea, may constitute one of the last reefs to survive the century, so it’s crucial that countries coordinate on Gulf-wide research and conservation efforts despite regional political tensions,” says study leader Karine Kleinhaus, visiting associate professor at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS).

The authors point out that coral reefs of the Red Sea provide food and a source of livelihood to a rapidly growing population of over 28 million people living along its coastline, and are a uniquely rich potential source of new medicines.

Read the full article about coral reefs by Gregory Filiano at Futurity.