Animals & Wildlife Magazine

A Potential New Solution for Endangered Coral Reefs

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

A potential new solution for endangered coral reefsResearch led by Swansea University has offered a potential solution to conserving endangered coral reefs around the world’s oceans. Some varieties of sea grass could be the answer to neutralising the waters and protecting marine wildlife.

Dr Richard Unsworth, along with a team of marine biologists from Oxford University and James Cook University in Australia, has discovered varieties of sea grass with unique properties. Some species have the ability to reduce the acidity of the water surrounding them which would inadvertently protect any surrounding marine wildlife from erosion and acidic environments.

Corals, which are in desperate need of fresh conservation efforts in many regions, are worm-like creatures around a centimetre in length which live in colonies numbering millions. They release calcium carbonate, creating a protective atmosphere around the group. Despite this self defence mechanism, the survival of corals has consistently been threatened by the rising carbon dioxide levels. In the past 40 years, the raising acidity of the oceans has had disastrous effects on coral reefs.

However Dr Unsworth’s recent discovery may change the coral reefs currently dismal fate. His team have discovered particular types of sea grass which can photosynthesise carbon dioxide so quickly and so efficiently that surrounding water becomes alkaline. This enables them to neutralise an acidic environment, creating a safer atmosphere for coral reefs.

Dr Unsworth noted that, ‘Highly productive tropical sea grasses often live adjacent to or among coral reefs and photosynthesise carbon dioxide so quickly and efficiently that they actually turn the surrounding water more alkaline. [...] We wanted to understand whether this could be a major local influence on seawater and the problems of ocean acidification.’

The team is undoubtedly hopeful that their research efforts could provide a breakthrough in coral reef conservation. Yet the coral conserving sea grass are also under threat from human activity such as over-fishing, chemical pollution and climate change. The team has warned that if no action is taken to protect them neither the sea grass nor the coral reefs will be able to thrive.

Frontier gives you the opportunity to apply to be a marine conservation volunteer or for jobs in conservation.

Read more from Frontier about marine research and conservation here.

By Dana Beltaji

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