Science

Could the discovery of a master gene system be suffocating the last moments of a coral reef?

A unique stress experiment aligned the stress of deoxygenation with the natural day and night cycle of coral reefs shared to build reefs from the Great Barrier Reef. Credit: Morgan Bennett Smith

Oxygen is life, in or out of water, raising concerns that declining oxygen stocks in the oceans add additional environmental pressures to already severely vulnerable coral reef ecosystems. While the dual effects of ocean warming and acidification have been well studied, to date there has been limited understanding of how the increasing threat of deoxygenation in the oceans affects coral reefs’ ability to function and ultimately form coral reefs.

The unique experiment of deoxygenation and reoxygenation stress has given researchers from Sydney University of Technology (UTS), the University of Konstanz and the University of Copenhagen insight into how corals manage deoxygenation stress and key genes that are likely to drive a diverse susceptibility to stress that typically leads to .

The study published in Biology of Global Change They discovered that, like other animals and humans, corals have a similar and evolving response to low oxygen levels or hypoxia. The response is most commonly activated during oxygen-poor exercise and cancer growth in humans

“Removing oxygen from the oceans is likely to pose a greater and more immediate threat to coral reef survival Warming and acidification. ”Lead author and UTS Ph.D. candidate at Rachel Alderdice said.

Coral reefs are increasingly exposed to hypoxic events due to climate change and localized pollution often caused by nutrient runoff.

“The extent to which coral reefs are at risk from future declines in oxygen levels in the oceans depends on hypoxia detection and response systems to be able to identify this genetic response system is important and exciting,” Ms. Alderdice, of the UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3) Research Program Coral reefs of the future.

The unique stress experiment aligned the stress of deoxygenation with the natural day and night cycle of coral reefs shared to build reefs from the Great Barrier Reef. Transcriptional RNA sequencing revealed key genes that were expressed that assist basic species such as Acropora tenuis to respond and tolerate, .

However, the research also revealed that not all corals appear to be equally sensitive to hypoxia.

“We found that those bleached corals had a later and less effective programming of the hypoxia-response gene system compared to unbleached corals. Differences in the programming capabilities of this major genetic system may be fundamental to understanding what dictates the ability of corals to withstand environmental stress – and ultimately how. Predict with greater accuracy the future Konstanz University, chief author, Dr. Christian Voolstra said

Researchers say identifying a genetic repertoire of “co-switching” stress may provide a new way to identify it Important to guide new diagnostics to improve coral reef management or as a target for selective breeding ‘ Restoration efforts aim to increase resistance to coral stress.

Associate Professor David Saugett, co-author, who is leading the UTS C3 Future Reefs research program, said, “Our primary concern right now is whether or not the reefs and corals are actually feeling the near-fatal effects of O2. . We’ve been so busy exploring the effects of ocean warming and acidification, and we’ve forgotten to remove oxygen, despite its life-sustaining role and this It is an oceanic property that we can measure very well. “

“This work confirms our recent analysis that the continued de-oxygenation of the oceans will play a critical role in shaping the future of our coral reefs, and another reason to act urgently. , “He said.


De-oxygenating the ocean: a silent driver of coral reef extinction?


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Could the discovery of a master gene system be suffocating the last moments of a coral reef? (2020, November 16)
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