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Uncovering the chemical language of coral reefs: Decoding the health of ocean ecosystems | Science of Tomorrow | LINE TODAY

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Uncovering the chemical language of coral reefs: Decoding the health of ocean ecosystems | Science of Tomorrow | LINE TODAY

Study Reveals New Ways to Monitor Health of Coral Reefs in Hawaii

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa have conducted a groundbreaking study that may revolutionize how we monitor the health of coral reefs in Hawaii. The study, led by a PhD student, uncovered that different types of coral and algae on the reef produce distinct chemical compounds, which have the potential to provide vital insights into the health of these ecosystems.

Macroalgae, corals, and stony coralline algae are the primary producers in coral reef ecosystems, similar to plants in terrestrial forests. These organisms play a crucial role in driving ecosystems by converting sunlight’s energy and producing various chemical compounds. Sean Swift, a doctoral candidate in marine biology at U-Manoa, emphasized the significance of these findings, stating, “The microorganisms and organic chemicals in the ecosystem can tell us about the health of the reef. This gives us a window into what’s going on.”

The research team conducted extensive sampling in Oahu’s Waimi Bay, collecting over 100 samples from five locations. By analyzing microbial DNA from the samples, they identified more than 36,000 unique groups of microorganisms associated with larger host organisms.

Furthermore, the study revealed that these coral and algae compounds could serve as food sources for microbes, aid in communication, or act as defense mechanisms against competitors. By utilizing “untargeted metabolomics” technology, researchers identified over 10,000 different chemical signatures, showcasing previously undiscovered chemical diversity within coral reef ecosystems.

In a related project, researchers are investigating the impact of urban fire sewage on nearby coral reef ecosystems in the aftermath of Maui’s wildfires. Craig Nelson, a professor at the Center for Marine Microbiology Research and Education at the University of Hawaii, highlighted the importance of assessing coral reef health and identifying fire-related contaminants in the tissues of coral reef organisms.

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This study not only enhances our understanding of coral reef ecosystems but also presents new perspectives and tools for future conservation efforts. By unraveling the chemical signals within coral reefs, scientists can improve their ability to assess and monitor the health of these precious environments.

The findings of this research have been published in the latest issue of Communications Biology and offer a promising outlook for the future of coral reef conservation efforts. For more science and technology news, visit Tomorrow Science Network at http://www.tomorrowsci.com.

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