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Two of the most common corals have been shown to be unexpectedly resistant to rising sea temperatures, reports National Geographic.
An American research team moved corals from existing reefs to water that was two degrees warmer and let the corals live there for two years.
The result was that two thirds of the corals survived. Coral reefs are still threatened, but if we manage to keep the temperature rise to two degrees, there is good hope that at least some coral reefs will live on.
"We had expected to see greater mortality than we saw or that the corals would barely survive. We were shocked by how high the survival rate actually was", says Rowan McLachlan, a researcher at Oregon State University and lead author of the study, in a comment to National Geographic.
The researchers took samples from four different reefs around Oahu in the United States. The samples included rice coral, finger coral and lobe coral. The samples were placed in 40 70-liter water tanks where the researchers also placed sand, fish, plankton and other things that are normally found in a reef.
It provided a realistic reef environment where researchers could regulate the temperature. In addition to increasing the temperature in some tanks, the researchers also increased the acidity in some tanks.
The experiment lasted for 22 months, and that it lasted so long, the researchers believe was important to get a true picture.
"We saw a change over time where the corals became stressed to begin with, but gradually they adapted. This suggests that if corals are given enough time to adapt to new conditions, some corals may survive the stress caused by climate change", says Andréa Grottoli, a researcher at Ohio State and another of the researchers behind the study.