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10 Jul 2012: Corals Facing Open Ocean
More Vulnerable to Warming, Study Finds

U.S. scientists say coral reef systems exposed to the open ocean are most vulnerable to warming ocean temperatures. In a new study, researchers at the University of North Carolina write that three distinct coral

In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,
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Interview with Coral Reef Expert Nancy Knowlton
In four decades as a marine biologist, Nancy Knowlton has played a key role in documenting the biodiversity of coral reefs and the threats they increasingly face. In an interview with Yale e360, she highlights conservation projects that offer hope of saving these irreplaceable ecosystems.
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zones located within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in Central America — including the foreef (closest to the ocean), the nearshore (closest to the shore), and the backreef (directly behind the reef crest) — saw an increase in average summer sea surface temperatures from 1982 to 2008. But while they observed a decline in skeletal growth in corals facing the ocean during that period, coral growth rates in the other two zones remained relatively stable. According to their findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the ocean-facing corals were more vulnerable to warming conditions because historically they had experienced cooler and more stable seawater. “However, because backreef and nearshore coral colonies have historically been exposed to warmer and more variable seawater temperatures, they seem to be less affected,” said Karl Castillo, a postdoctoral researcher at UNC and lead author of the study. The scientists say the findings could help researchers better understand how corals are likely to respond to future warming.

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