Coral Reefs Adapting to the Warming Waters of Climate Change

Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, yet are estimated to support 25% of marine biodiversity. For the millions of people living adjacent to coral reefs, this productive ecosystem provides important shoreline protection and critical food.

Global climatic changes are altering the structure and functioning of many reef ecosystems.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine biologist Stuart Sandin illuminates his work leading the 100 Island Challenge, a project that uses high tech ecological surveys to capture snapshots of coral reef ecosystems found in the tropical waters of the Pacific, Caribbean, and Indian oceans.

His team uses large-area imaging and 3-D visualizations to make unprecedented, detailed observations of how coral reefs are faring. While some reefs are struggling, others have been able to adapt in response to changing climate and other human impacts. By combining ocean observation with modern techniques like genetic sequencing and data analysis, Stuart and his team aim to elucidate which corals are surviving and how. By decoding nature’s incredible capacity for adaptation, these scientists are paving the way for using this new knowledge to aid coral reef recovery.

The goal of the 100 Island Challenge is to gain a holistic understanding of the current state and future trajectory of the world’s coral reefs by conducting a global assessment of coral reefs and the factors promoting or inhibiting their growth.

Watch Coral Reefs and the Power of Adaptation to Climate Change.