Steven Vollmer

Study: After 2,500 Years, Dead Coral Reef Comes Back To Life

A new study featured in Science suggests that coral may be able to recover from disaster.

The paper, co-authored by Richard Aronson of the Florida Institute of Technology, combined the skills of several universities, including Prof. Steven Vollmer and PhD student David Combosch from Northeastern University.

The study focused on the reefs off the Pacific Coast of Panama. Using a 17-foot-long irrigation pipe, researchers were able to reveal the 6,000-year lifespan of a coral reef. After pulling out the sample, the team discovered that the reef had shut down for 2,500 years—40 percent of its existence.

So what caused this reef to virtually die and come back to life? Researchers say the ocean’s water cycle played a large factor. The hot and cold temperatures from frequent La Nina and El Nino events created an environment that made it difficult for the coral to grow. When the extreme fluctuations in water temperature began to dissipate, the coral came back to life.

“Our study suggests there is hope that coral reefs can recover from the future impacts of rising seawater temperatures and acidification associated with global climate change.” said Vollmer. “The challenge is that we now need to turn back climate change, which is no easy matter.”

To read more of the study, click here.

This research has been featured by several news outlets, including NPRMSNBCCBS and the New York Times.

College of Science