Starfish surrounded by decomposing coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo by XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Scientists say good bacteria could be the key to keeping coral healthy, able to withstand the impacts of global warming and to secure the long-term survival of reefs worldwide, according to a University of Hawai‘i news report.
“Healthy corals interact with complex communities of beneficial microbes or ‘good bacteria,’ ” sais Dr. Tracy Ainsworth from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University who led the study. “It is very likely that these microorganisms play a pivotal role in the capacity of coral to recover from bouts of bleaching caused by rising temperatures.”
Co-author Dr. Ruth Gates, from the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology at UH Mānoa, said facilitating coral survival and promoting coral recovery are growing areas of research for coral reef scientists.
“To do this we need to explore and understand the bacteria that help keep corals and coral reefs healthy,” Gates said.
Ainsworth and Gates have identified new directions for research in understanding coral survival in rapidly changing reef environments.
“We know that lasting changes to the community of beneficial bacteria affects important aspects of the function of host organisms such as humans or corals, including their ability to withstand further stress,” Ainsworth said. “Corals rely on good bacteria but crucially we don’t yet understand these microbes well enough to know how they influence coral survival.”