Resilient corals, also known as ‘super corals’, are being studied by scientists to understand how they can help protect fragile ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef. The researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Haifa in Israel want to develop strategies to protect coral reefs from the detrimental effects of climate change. The study focuses on a type of coral called Porites lutea, which has been found to thrive in mangrove and reef sites. Mangrove lagoons have conditions similar to what future climate predictions say coral reefs will face: warmer water, more acidity, and lower oxygen levels. The corals in mangrove lagoons display traits that help them tolerate these stressful conditions. However, the study found that these adaptations come at a cost. The corals in mangrove lagoons have reduced genetic diversity and compromised skeletal properties. This could limit their ability to cope with future environmental changes. The researchers also discovered that the skeletal structure of Porites lutea in mangrove lagoons had increased porosity and reduced density, which could be problematic if these corals were moved to high wave areas. The study challenges the idea that ‘super corals’ are always a good option for restoring coral reefs. The researchers are now studying how to integrate ‘super corals’ into coral restoration programs while maintaining genetic diversity and minimizing risk.
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