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Are Super Corals the Answer to the Ocean Crisis?

Wave Tribe

Every diehard surfer knows how human-induced climate change is wreaking havoc on our ocean’s coral reefs.

Published by Wave Tribe

Coral reefs are very important to all marine organisms

We’ve all seen itfrom the reefs on the Great Barrier to the corals in Southeast Florida, it’s transforming wide patches of living organisms into a bleached wasteland.

Coral reefs are very important for the biodiversity of marine life. They also assist in carbon and nitrogen-fixing while also helping with nutrient recycling. So they are very important for the continued health of our oceans.

But with climate change heating up the waters and making it more acidic, they are at the risk of being wiped out and when they’re gone, the ocean’s health will fail and we’ll be screwed.  

That’s why scientists are racing against time to find ways on how to save these corals. This includes working on the international policy front to pressure countries to reduce runaway carbon emissions which are responsible for climate change. But current initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint are not happening fast enough so there have to be other options.

Rise of the Super Corals

As it turns out, the answer may lie in the same coral reefs that are being threatened.

There are some species that grow in hostile environments where temperatures and water pressure can swing drastically and yet they are able to survive. For instance, tide pools and intertidal reef zones are not a conducive environment for the average coral. The exposure to air, heat, and varied water pressure can be detrimental to a coral’s survival.

And yet scientists have found out that these extreme coral habitats are not only natural laboratories, but they also house a stockpile of extremely tolerant “super corals".

Super corals are species that are strong enough to survive extreme conditions and rapid changes in the
marine environment

What are Super Corals?

Super corals are those species that are strong enough to survive extreme conditions and rapid changes in the marine environment.

In the case of corals found in shallow pools, they are able to survive high levels of heat stress since these pools warm more quickly at low tide.

The discovery of super corals is a hopeful note amid the many dire reports about the future of our reefs.Because of this discovery, reef communities could be repopulated with “super corals” that are more resilient against the increasing heat stress that’s plaguing the ocean.

— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder

Mangroves Nurture Corals

These corals are also found in mangrove areas which makes the protection of mangrove forests even more important because of how connected they are to the condition of coral reefs.

In a mangrove lagoon, the water conditions are often very extremethe water is warm, more acidic, and have low dissolved oxygen level.

And yet, these super corals are able to survive and flourish in this kind of environment.

Near the Great Barrier Reef, for instance, two mangrove lagoons have been discovered to nurture these super corals.

Researchers have found out that there are at least 34 coral species, living in more acidic water with very little oxygen. In these conditions, researchers have discovered that these corals are able to survive even though temperatures varied widely and included periods of very high temperatures that are known to cause stress in other corals.

Super corals can also be found on mangrove forests
Photo by: usgs.gov

Other Super Coral Areas

The presence of these super corals is not limited to the Great Barrier Reef. Mangroves in Seychelles, Indonesia, and New Caledonia have all been found to have diverse coral populations surviving in hostile conditions.

Here at home, we even have our own super corals. Marine biologists from the University of Hawaii have discovered super corals living in the harsh inhospitable waters in Hawaii's Kāne'ohe Bay.

Like most coasts along a tourist zone, Kāne'ohe Bay has been a victim of sewage and pollution resulting in widespread bleaching that nearly killed off its corals. But when it underwent clean-up and pollution was reduced, the corals (in comparison to other bays) were able to grow twice as fast and remained resilient in extreme conditions.

It would seem that they developed tolerance to the acidic warmer waters so they were able to bounce back strongly.

Implications for the Future of Corals

The discovery of super corals is a hopeful note amid the many dire reports about the future of our reefs.Because of this discovery, reef communities could be repopulated with “super corals” that are more resilient against the increasing heat stress that’s plaguing the ocean.

But given how widespread it is all over the world, there are not enough resources that can be used to implement restoration everywhere. It’s also unlikely that there will be enough super corals that will survive being transplanted in every reef that needs to be restored.

In the Great Barrier Reef alone, around 35% of coral colonies died because of bleaching between 2016 and 2017. With such a large scope of coral bleaching globally, it would be difficult to think that transplanting super-corals is the easy answer to reef restoration, especially with the current planting rate.

Corals bleaching due to high water temperature

Still, it’s a positive development than having nothing at all. If we can scale up the recovery and replanting efforts of these super corals, we can help seed new generations of resistant corals onto adjacent reefs, creating a bank climate-change resilient reefs that the marine biodiversity can depend on.

Healing Our Ocean

In the meantime, we continue with our own personal initiatives to help stop climate change so that the ocean and its coral reefs can recover. Whether it is by reducing our carbon and plastic footprints or volunteering time and money to support non-profit groups saving the ocean, all these can add to the bigger goal of protecting the ocean.

Here at Wave Tribe, it’s our mission to protect the ocean by offering eco-friendly surfing gear and products for the surfer. We all know how toxic mass-produced surfing gear is and we want to change that. Whether it is in the use of sustainable materials for our popular surfboard travel bags or in recycling plastic for our well-reviewed eco leash, our mission is to leave nothing toxic for the ocean so that we can continue to enjoy riding the immensity of its clean waves. It’s a moral imperative for us.

And you can join us too. By simply shifting to a more eco-friendly surfing gear, you can be part of the growing green movement in surfing.  

 

More Eco-Reads from Wave Tribe

The Great Barrier Reef is Dying and Why We Should Be Alarmed
Why A Broken Surfboard Is Bad For The Environment
Surfboard Wax Is Toxic - Why You Should Buy Eco Wax

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