U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Biological Impacts of Climate Change on Coral Reefs
Published: May 25, 2011
Posted: June 22, 2011

Acropora table coral on the Great Barrier Reef (Image (c) Pete Faulkner, Mission:awareness/Marine Photobank).

Over the past two decades, scientists have linked the decrease in the pH levels of the global oceans and the corresponding slowdown in coral growth to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere and which, in turn, are being absorbed in the ocean. As coral reefs are the primary habitat for several marine organisms, their decline has significant impacts on the health of the marine ecosystems and ocean productivity. To better understand how corals contribute to the global carbon cycle, the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) generated a dataset of expressed sequence tags or ESTs, small portions of a genome that can be used to help identify unknown genes and chart their locations along the sequence, from the reef-building coral Acropora palmate. In a study published online May 25, 2011, in PLoS ONE, a team of researchers including DOE JGI’s Erika Lindquist compared the A. palmate EST dataset to an EST dataset of another reef-building coral to identify the proteins involved in helping corals adapt to global climate change. The comparative analysis identified several proteins evolving at an accelerated rate, such as those involved in immunity, reproduction and sensory perception. “The category that was the most enriched with rapidly evolving proteins —cell adhesion—may also be related to symbiosis,” noted the study authors in their paper. These proteins are expected to evolve under positive selection due to the need for readjustments, e.g., due to the “arms race” between the coral and the bacterial symbionts. This research provides insights into the impacts of climate change at the biological level.

Reference: Voolstra, C. R., S. Sunagawa, M. V. Matz, T. Bayer, M. Aranda, et al. 2011. “Rapid Evolution of Coral Proteins Responsible for Interaction with the Environment,” PLoS ONE 6(5),e20392. DOE:10.1371/journal.pone.0020392.

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)