The number of young corals in equatorial reefs has declined by roughly 85% over the last four decades, new research shows.
While this undoubtedly poses a great risk to the survival of equatorial reefs, the good news is that the shift could help conserve both corals and other species that live in reefs — all of which are being threatened by climatic shifts.
Re-reefing “Climate change seems to be redistributing coral reefs, the same way it is shifting many other marine species,” said Nichole Price, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.
New coral reefs begin developing when larvae find a suitable bit of seafloor away from the reef where they originated.
However, the team believes that only certain types of coral are able to reach these new, comfortable areas, depending on how long their larvae can swim or drift on currents before running out of fat (of which they have quite a limited amount).
However, the team also notes that it’s not just corals that make a reef — they are highly complex ecosystems of interconnected species, and can only function properly when these species live and mingle together.
The team plans to expand their research to understand the diversity of and relationships between the species in these new reefs.