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In a changing environment, some species fare better

March 11, 2013

In a changing environment, some species fare better

Picking apart how local and global offenders conspire to wreck reefs is not easy

When corals die, blame is spread near and far. Pollution and deforestation join a lineup of usual suspects that includes warming waters and more acidic seas.

Picking apart how local and global offenders conspire to wreck reefs is not easy. The corals that survive may offer some clues. “Some species benefit when conditions change,” says STRI marine biologist Andrew Altieri. “It's an oversimplification to say everything is getting worse.”

One of Andrews's primary research interests is the resilience of reefs. While coral reefs are in decline worldwide, relatively few species have gone extinct. By moving corals around in the field and subjecting species to different conditions in the laboratory, Andrew will expose corals to a variety of situations to understand how they deal with change.

“Why are some corals found in one place and not another? Is it because they failed to arrive or failed to survive when they got there?” asks Andrew. He also questions about the trajectory of reef decline. “When you see a major assault on a reef, does it trigger only loss or could there be a shift? Is it temporary and will there be a rebound?”

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