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Resilience of Coral to Climate Change

A corals resilience is its ability to withstand and recover from disturbances such as bleaching. Photo: AIMS

AIMS is investigating the potential for reef corals to recover after bleaching events and their ability to acclimatise or adapt to water temperature increases in the longer term.

Resilience is the ability of organisms to withstand and recover from disturbances. If there is no abatement in long-term climate change, corals will die out unless they evolve.

After a catastrophic bleaching event, where a significant proportion of the coral has died, a reef will recover primarily by recruiting new coral from surrounding reefs.

AIMS scientists identify the origin of new recruits by using genetic analysis of coral populations, together with hydrodynamic modelling of sea currents. This means they can identify ‘source’ and ‘sink’ reefs.

Investigating how coral populations acclimatise and adapt to climate change lets AIMS predict how coral will respond to the pressure of selection.

We are also using genetic tools to better understand how corals will acclimatise to further temperature increases through association with heat-resistant strains of zooxanthellae, photosynthesising symbiotic partners of corals.