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FEBRUARY 24, 2021 7
 Researchers Explore Coral Bleaching Along Kāne’ohe Bay
 Coral reefs are facing threats that are driving their decline, including the plan- et’s warming waters. This threat hit record levels in 2015, when high tempera- tures were turning corals white around the globe. In particular, Kāneʻohe Bay was hit hard with nearly half of its corals bleached.
“It was kind of horrify- ing,” states Crawford Dru- ry, a coral biologist at UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Institute for Marine Biology, who witnessed the 2015 bleach- ing event from Florida. “It’s disheartening to watch, but I try to think of it as an oppor- tunity.”
states Robert Quinn, an as- sistant professor in MSU’s Department of Biochemis- try and Molecular Biology. “This could help us restore reefs with the most resistant stock.”
isms responded and recov- ered, making some surpris- ing observations along the way. For example, neigh- boring corals could behave completely differently in re- sponse to high temperatures. One of the corals could bleach completely while its neighbor maintained a healthy golden hue.
 Hidden in the aftermath of this extreme event were biochemical clues as to why some corals bleached while others were resistant, infor- mation that could help reefs better weather warming waters in the future. These clues were uncovered by researchers at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Mich- igan State University, and published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
The researchers discov- ered chemical signatures in the corals’ biology or bio- markers present in organ- isms that were most resistant to the bleaching. This previ- ously hidden insight could help researchers and conser- vationists to better restore and protect reefs around the world.
During the 2015 bleach- ing event, Gates Coral Lab researchers tagged individ- ual corals to keep tabs on them. Since most of the cor- als recovered, they could be followed through time.
Quinn’s team found that corals that were resistant to bleaching had very different biochemical profiles than those that were susceptible.
Scientists are studying the difference between corals resistant to bleaching (left) and those that are susceptible. PHOTO COURTESY TY ROACH
“Usually, we think of biomarkers as signatures of disease, but this could be a signature of health,”
Following the bleaching, the team compared and con- trasted coral samples in the wild, noting how the organ-
Having this chemical in- formation is promising for coral preservation. When
“We can use natural resil- ience to better understand, support and manage coral reefs under climate change,” Drury states.
For the the full article on this subject, visit manoa. php?aId=11139.
“We think about it as a bi- ological library,” states Dru- ry, the principal investigator with Gates Coral Lab. “It was set up by researchers in our lab who knew it would be valuable.”
“This is not unlike the difference between oil and margarine, the latter having more saturated fat making it solid at room temperature,” adds Quinn.
conservationists reseed cor- als to help restore reefs, they can potentially select more resilient specimens based on their lipid profiles.
funded by Paul G. Allen Family Foundation as part of its integrated ocean health program and coral reef port- folio that includes scientific research, policy support and innovative funding models.
The initial project was
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