CoralChange: a project to study and protect threatened coral by global change
Coral reefs are one of the most diverse, fascinating and productive ecosystems in the planet. However, these biological structures are also highly sensitive to the adverse effects of the current climate crisis. Phenomena such as progressive bleaching and massive mortality of corals affect these ecosystems endanger their future viability. In this context, the University of Barcelona (UB, Spain) together with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Science of University at University of Washington (SAFS, USA) are leading CoralChange, a project that will assess the role of reproduction in the dynamics and viability on the threatened coral populations in the Caribbean. CoralChange is funded by the European Union, and the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie action fellowship. The project, managed by the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBiG), is coordinated by the associate professor Cristina Linares, from the UB and Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, assistant professor at the SAFS. The Marie Curie fellow is the coral expert Núria Viladrich. Dr. Viladrich will perform experiments in the Caribbean to understand how climate change can impact the physiology and reproduction of hexacorals and octocorals.
Protecting corals from the effects of global change
With an innovative approach, CoralChange will develop and apply demographical models to understand how coral populations will perform under different global change scenarios. Researcher Núria Viladrich will work on a series of demographic prediction models –with experimental data and field work– that will include parameters on the physiological condition, trophic plasticity, reproductive success and larval viability of corals. The project will also examine the energetic cost of acclimatization and the physiological tolerance under multiple stressors. CoralChange will focus on adults and early-life history stages, which can be the most vulnerable ones. The results of the project will be crucial to develop effective management and conservation strategies to protect coral reefs under different levels of environmental stress, as well as to identify the coral populations and species with more chances to survive under the future conditions in the marine environment.