Heat waves have been shown to negatively impact the lives of two Mediterranean coral species, the red coral (Corallium rubrum) and the white gorgonian (Eunicella singularis).
Scientists from the University of Barcelona have determined that heat stress reduced the survival and dispersal of the coral larvae.
This means that not only do fewer and fewer corals survive, but the interconnectedness of the population declines. This can significantly impact marine ecosystems since both species play a crucial role in supporting marine biodiversity.
Commenting on the research, one of the study leads and professor at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Cristina Linares, stated:
“Although previous experimental studies found that adult colonies of the species studied are mostly resistant to heat stress, our results at early stages suggest that the persistence and connectivity of local populations may be severely compromised by an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves like the ones we have experienced this year.
“Moreover … since many corals play a structural role in increasing the diversity of marine ecosystems, changes in their reproductive processes could also lead to a radical loss of biodiversity, affecting hundreds of associated species, which may ultimately also threaten direct economic resources, such as fisheries or recreational activities such as diving.”
While another study lead and member of the Marine Biodiversity Conservation Research Group (MEDRECOVER), Núria Viladrich, stated:
“They play an important structural and functional role because they form complex three-dimensional structures that generate spatial heterogeneity and provide a suitable habitat for hundreds of associated species, many of them with a high economic value, such as lobsters and many other commercial fish larvae that take refuge from predation around the three-dimensional structure of corals, gorgonians and also sponges.”
You can find the original research here.