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New algae species helps corals survive in the hottest reefs on the planet

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A new species of algae has been discovered in reef corals of the Persian (Arabian) Gulf that helps corals to survive seawater temperatures of up to 36°C – a temperature that would kill corals elsewhere.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and the New York University Abu Dhabi identified the symbiotic algae in corals from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the world’s warmest coral reef habitat.

The paper, which reports the breakthrough discovery, is published in the journal Scientific Reports from where it can be freely accessed here.

“We found that commonly applied molecular methods did not give enough resolution to distinguish the dominant symbionts of Gulf corals from those in other parts of the world’s oceans,” explains Professor Jörg Wiedenmann, Professor of Biological Oceanography and Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton. “However, when analysed by alternative molecular biological approaches, we found pronounced differences that set this heat tolerant species clearly aside. We named it Symbiodinium thermophilum in reference to its ability to survive unusually high temperatures.”

Reefs are made up of many different coral species, most of which live in a mutually beneficial relationship with microscopically small algae hosted in their tissue. These symbiont algae produce sugars that contribute to the diet of the coral in return for shelter and nutrients that are vital for algal growth.

However, the symbiotic association is vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions, in particular to increases in seawater temperature. Heat-stress induced loss of the algal partners from the coral host can result in coral bleaching.

“Understanding how corals survive under the extreme temperatures in the Gulf will give us important insights into the ability of reef corals to handle the heat stress, which is threatening their survival in the oceans that are warming up in response to climate change,” said Professor Wiedenmann.

“We monitored the symbiotic partnership over several seasons to ensure that this association was stable through a range of thermal conditions,” comments Professor John Burt from the New York University Abu Dhabi. “We can confirm that this new type of alga is indeed the year-round prevalent symbiont across several dominant coral species from the Abu Dhabi coast of the United Arab Emirates.”

“It gives hope to find that corals have more ways to adjust to stressful environmental conditions than we had previously thought,” adds Professor Wiedenmann. “However, it is not only heat that troubles coral reefs. Pollution and nutrient enrichment, overfishing and coastal development also represent severe threats to their survival. Only if we manage to reduce these different forms of stress will corals be able to benefit from their capacity to adjust to climate change.”

 

Source: www.southampton.ac.uk

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: MK19 Evo/D420/R195 Octo Dive Regulator System from Scubapro (Watch Video)

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In a video shot exclusively for Scubaverse.com, Jeff Goodman reviews the MK19 Evo/D420/R195 Octo Dive Regulator System from Scubapro.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Scubaverse meet the Ullapool Sea Savers

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On a recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland we met up with an amazing bunch of ocean conservationists called the Ullapool Sea Savers. They are a passionate group of young people based in the beautiful coastal town of Ullapool who are working to protect the marine environment around them and it was a real pleasure to hear their ideas and to witness just how committed they are to their cause.

They are a group run by kids for kids, in response to the inspirational work of local marine campaigner Noel Hawkins. Their core premise is that people will protect what they love and they aim to show people just how much there is to love about the sea. The Ullapool Sea Savers keep things positive and work to inspire those around them and each other.

Each Sea Saver is a Species Champion, and they nominate their preferred species, learn all about them and then present a “fact fie” to the rest of the group. This ties in with the Species Champion Initiative launched by Scottish Environment LINK which asks Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to lend political support to the protection of Scotland’s threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’. This has led to some great support from MSPs when it comes to campaigning, such as Maree Todd MSP and Minister for Children and Young People (who is also from Ullapool which helped!) becoming the Flameshell Species Champion and working closely with Caillin who is Flameshell Ambassador for the Ullapool Sea Savers. Similarly, Gail Ross MSP for our region, took on the role of Seagrass Species Champion and helped USS campaign against plans to allow Mechanical Kelp Extraction (Dredging!) to be given the go ahead in Scotland. There are plenty more example of this great partnering scheme here.

On top of this, the Ullapool Sea Savers have formed pods, and each small group selects a local campaign to work on, with the “New Wave” working on a “Drain Campaign” to educate people that litter dropped on the street ends up in the surrounding sea. They recently surveyed the litter by the first drain in the campaign and found over 300 cigarette butts that would have all washed out to sea during the next rainfall.

The “Blue Starfish” are working on a crisp packet recycling campaign, starting at the local school with hopes to widen the scale going forward. There is now also the newly formed Seal Pups Pod and we look forward to seeing what campaign they decide to focus on.

Many of the group have passed qualifications in snorkeling, diving, boat handling and they are currently learning to operate an ROV that they plan to use to mark underwater litter and ghost nets so it can be retrieved by divers. The group are also regularly found litter-picking along the coastline. As a group they have a powerful voice and recently won the Sunday Mail, Young Scot Awards 2021 for the Environment Category.

The older kids mentor some of the younger ones that are new to joining the group and what really struck us on meeting the group was how keen they were to pass on their wealth of knowledge and their passion for ocean conservation. We chatted to them about what we do and told them about some of our favourite marine life encounters from around the world. I hope we inspired them just a fraction as much as they inspired us! 

To find out more about the Ullapool Sea Savers you can visit their website by clicking here.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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