Coral Itself May Play Important Role in Regulating Local Climate: Coral Chemicals Protect Against Warming Oceans
Australian marine scientists have found the first evidence that coral itself may play an important role in regulating local climate.
They have discovered that the coral animal — not just its algal symbiont — makes an important sulphur-based molecule with properties to assist it in many ways, ranging from cellular protection in times of heat stress to local climate cooling by encouraging clouds to form.
These findings have been published in the science journal Nature.
The researchers have shown that the coral animal makes dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP). “The characteristic ‘smell of the ocean’ is actually derived from this compound, indicating how abundant the molecule is in the marine environment. In fact we could smell it in a single baby coral,” says AIMS chemist Cherie Motti, and co-author on the paper.
The sulphur-based molecules also serve as nuclei for the formation of water droplets in the atmosphere — and hence help to create clouds. If coral numbers decline, the scientists warn, there could be a major decrease in the production of DMSP and this, in turn, will impede cloud formation.
"Cloud production, especially in the tropics, is an important regulator of climate — because clouds shade Earth and reflect much of the sun’s heat back into space. If fewer clouds are produced, less heat will be reflected — which ultimately will lead to warmer sea surface temperatures," Dr Raina explains.
Science in Public. “Coral itself may play important role in regulating local climate: Coral chemicals protect against warming oceans.” ScienceDaily, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
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