An algae called Algae Biofilms have been shown to be the cause of coral bleaching, an ongoing global health problem that threatens the health of marine life and can cause damage to the oceans ecosystem.
But a new study suggests algae biofilms may also be one of the main reasons for coral bleached coral reefs.
The new study from the University of Exeter’s School of Marine and Environmental Science suggests algae can actually disrupt coral growth and coral reefs can become damaged from algae.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers from the university’s School for Environmental Science and Global Change analysed the algae growth on reefs in the Caribbean and Pacific.
They used a model of coral growth that takes into account factors such as water temperature and salinity, as well as environmental conditions such as salinity and CO2 levels.
They found algae biofilm growth increased in areas with low salinity but in areas that were at higher salinity levels, algae grew faster.
“The effect is that algae biofouling can disrupt coral development and increase coral bleachment in the coral reef,” said lead author Dr Caroline DeSouza from the School for Environment and Global Development.
“This suggests that these algae are also one of several factors that can affect coral growth in a coral reef.”
This may have important implications for the health and wellbeing of marine wildlife in the deep sea.
“We can expect that the effects of the algal bioflux on coral reefs will affect the health status of marine animals in the area as well,” she said.
The researchers used a mathematical model to explain the changes in coral growth.
“It suggests that it is the algaes and the water that can lead to the coral growth disruption.
So it is a combination of both the algaculture and the alchemical processes that can trigger coral bleach,” Dr DeSobas said.”
But coral bleaches are also linked to ocean acidification and global warming, so there is the potential that this can cause other coral bleaches to occur, as they have happened previously with other species.”
Dr DeSoubas said that it was important to look at the effects coral bleachers have on coral reef communities.
“If coral bleacher bleaching is a consequence of ocean acidity, then this could mean that the effect of acidification on coral ecosystems is also the cause,” she explained.
“And so the question becomes, is this caused by bleaching alone, or is there a further effect?”
Dr De Soubas and her team are now working on understanding the complex interactions between algae and coral that can create an environment where coral bleeds are more likely.
“Coral bleaching can have a dramatic effect on coral communities,” she added.
“One of the things that we want to do is look at this more carefully, because we are seeing some very significant changes in reef communities due to the impact of algal blooms, and the effects that these algal bloom events have on reefs.”______