Mechanisms of heat tolerance in corals from naturally extreme environments

Australia’s remote Kimberley region harbors coral populations that are extremely stress-tolerant, and therefore serves as an ideal natural laboratory to study the mechanisms and limits of coral thermal tolerance. I conducted a heat stress experiment at the Kimberley Marine Research Station at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm which showed that extreme temperature fluctuations (up to 7°C daily) resulted in increased heat stress resistance but that Kimberley corals were nevertheless not immune to bleaching.

These findings were ultimately confirmed by the first large-scale bleaching event in this region in 2016. Colleagues and I conducted extensive in situ monitoring prior, during and after the bleaching event. Furthermore, I will conduct biogeochemical and genetic analyses to study why some corals were more resistant to bleaching than others, and why some recovered whereas others died.

See Publications and In the News for publications and media coverage.

Photo credit: Chris Cornwall.

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