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Coral reefs in ocean

Can corals live life in the fast lane?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Aren’t coral reefs gorgeous?! Sure! But did you know that nearly half of coral species are found deep below the sea, in cold water? Yet, with climate change come faster and faster currents. Could this damage corals?!

Aaron Lim at University College Cork and international colleagues decided to dive in. They went to Western Ireland, home to some GIANT coral mounds – think: SKYSCRAPER-sized! There, the team tracked the speeds of the current using sound waves. To study coral growth, they used a remote-controlled submarine with a camera.

So, WATER the results? Corals can withstand speedy currents above two miles per hour. BUT most live coral was found at spots with LOWER current speeds. Slower currents make it easier for corals to feed on planktons and other tiny organisms. 

Lim hopes to study the effects of climate change on cold water corals using this technique. Conservationists can use these results to predict coral behavior and help them thrive!

So, now you’re UP TO SPEED on all things coral!

References: Lim, A., Wheeler, A.J., Price, D.M. O’Reilly, L., Harris, K., Conti, L. Influence of benthic currents on cold-water coral habitats: a combined benthic monitoring and 3D photogrammetric investigation. Scientific Reports 10, 19433 (2020).