Coral Reefs Bounced Back
July 13, 2012
Ian Macintyre, left, of the Smithsonian Institution and Steven Vollmer of Northeastern University extract a core from a reef. Like tree rings, reef cores reveal patterns of growth that indicate the health of a reef through time.
Coral reefs in Panama’s Pacific died and came back to life again, according to a report in Science magazine. Researchers took cores from 6,000-year-old reefs using a 17 foot aluminum bore. They were surprised to discover that the reefs died about 4,000 years ago, and began to grow again 2,500 years later. There is a similar gap in reefs from Australia and Japan.
Extreme oscillations between hot El Niño years and cold La Niña years may have caused the collapse.
“Current climate change could definitely trump overfishing and pollution as causes of reef decline,” said Lauren Toth, Ph.D. student from Florida Institute of Technology. “If we are able to get a handle on climate change, then we might be able to save coral reefs,” said her advisor, Richard Aronson, in an interview on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.
The authors continue to study reef development in Panama as part of Northeastern University’s Three Seas Program, hosted by STRI’s Office of Academic Programs.