Singapore Coral Reefs Are Super Resilient, Study Finds

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©. Huang Danwei / National University of Singapore

These reefs live in murky water with low levels of light and are likely to survive rising sea levels, researchers say.

Climate change is bad news for the world's coral reefs. As global temperatures increase, the world's glaciers melt, causing sea levels and ocean temperatures to rise. These conditions have led to coral bleaching events, where the coral turns white and slowly dies, unable to survive in its changing environment.

Global sea levels are expected to rise about 1.5 feet by 2100, meaning coral reefs will be deeper underwater than they were previously. The deeper the coral, the less light it receives, and the less ability it has to make food. This has the potential to alter entire ecosystems of reefs and the marine life they support.

But a new study from a team of researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) provides a glimmer of hope. They studied nearly 3,000 corals from 124 species at two reefs off the coast of Singapore: Pulau Hantu and Raffles Lighthouse (pictured above). The water where these reefs live is cloudy, murky, and thick with sediment.

The light reaches down about 26 feet, yet there are corals thriving at that level and below. They've adapted to survive amid the changing conditions. Researchers say it's likely these corals will survive sea-level rise, according to the findings published in the journal Marine Environmental Research.

The team was led by Huang Danwei, an assistant professor at NUS. He and his team say this knowledge will help inform coral reef management, conservation, and restoration strategies in the future.