Global Warming Slows Coral Growth in Red Sea
July 15, 2010
In a pioneering use of computed tomography (CT) scans, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have discovered that carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced global warming is in the process of killing off a major coral species in the Red Sea. As summer sea surface temperatures have remained about 1.5 degrees Celsius above ambient over the last 10 years, growth of the coral, Diploastrea heliopora, has declined by 30% and "could cease growing altogether by 2070" or sooner, they report in the July 16 issue of the journal Science.
"The warming in the Red Sea and the resultant decline in the health of this coral is a clear regional impact of global warming," said Neal E. Cantin, a WHOI postdoctoral investigator and co-lead researcher on the project. In the 1980s, he said, "the average summer [water] temperatures were below 30 degrees Celsius. In 2008 they were approaching 31 degrees."
Cantin and WHOI Research Specialist Anne L. Cohen, the other lead investigator, said the findings were unexpected because D. heliopora did not exhibit one of the typical signs of thermal stress: bleaching. "These corals looked healthy," said Cohen.
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