We increasingly hear about how important bacteria are for our bodies and our health, but scientists are now becoming aware of bacteria's importance for protecting and maintaining coral reefs and protecting them against global warming.
Our microbiome, or community of bacteria residing within us, is of fundamental importance to our health and day-to-day bodily functions.
A recent study has shown that the coral microbiome could be just as important for coral daily health and long-term maintenance.
Dr. Tracy Ainsworth of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University Australia led the study and believes that good bacteria are vital for the long-term survival of reefs worldwide. Her paper discusses the need for coral scientists to tap into the pivotal role that bacteria and microorganisms play in coral health.
Globally, coral reefs are thought to be home to some 25% of marine life but the reefs are under threat due to environmental stress such as global warming. Corals are now facing regular bouts of bleaching which is caused by the rising temperatures of the oceans. For coral reef scientists, helping coral survival and recovery is of the utmost importance.
"There is great potential for the coral microbiome to help mitigate the effects of climate change and local disturbance," commented Dr. Emily Rivest, at University of California who is an independent expert on how corals respond to their environment, but not involved in the study.
She further explains, "For example, this year, there is a global bleaching event, and for the largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, more than 90% of corals have bleached. During bleaching, corals lose the algae they host inside their tissue. Without the algae, the coral easily become stressed from high temperature, pollution or pathogens. The microbiome may be able to help the coral recover from bleaching, preventing death of theses foundation species, the engineers of the coral reef."
Research in this field is crucial to understanding the complexity of the corals genetic and bacterial make-up.
Scientists now believe that the coral microbiome could hold the key to its long-term protection for the future.
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