1

People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.

2

Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution

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Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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An international team of scientists has developed a strategy to boost people’s ability to adapt to climate change, revealed in a new study published today in the prestigious journal, Nature Climate Change.

“Millions of coastal people in the tropics have been affected by the global coral bleaching event that unfolded over the previous two years. We need to find ways to help these people adapt to change,” said Professor Joshua Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

A group of social scientists from the USA, Australia, UK, and Chile, led by Prof. Cinner, have pooled their experience, and lessons from hundreds of research and development projects, to highlight five keys ways to build up the adaptive capacity of people living in the coastal tropics. These include:

1. Ensuring that people have the assets to draw upon in times of need. These assets can include household wealth or public goods such as health services, but they need to be developed in ways that don’t exacerbate existing inequalities;
2. Providing the flexibility to change. “Having some flexibility can enable people to minimise losses or even take advantage of climate-related change,” said Prof. Eddie Allison from the University of Washington, USA. “For example, fishers might need to change fishing grounds or target new species.”
3. Learning about climate change and adaptation options. “People need to learn about new techniques and strategies that can help them cope with changing circumstances,” said Prof. Katrina Brown at the University of Exeter, UK.
4. Investing in social relationships. “The formal and informal relationships that people have with each other and their communities can help them deal with change by providing social support and access to both knowledge and resources,” said Prof. Cinner.
5. Empowering people to have a say in what happens to them. “We also need to ensure that people have the ability to determine what is right for them,” said Prof. Brown.

The paper “Building adaptive capacity to climate change in tropical coastal communities,” will be published in the February 1 issue of Nature Climate Change, and is available online today.

Citation: Cinner JE, Adger WN, Allison EH, Barnes ML, Brown K, Cohen PJ, Gelcich S, Hicks CC, Hughes TP, Lau J, Marshall NA, Morrison TH (2018) Building adaptive capacity to climate change in tropical coastal communities. Nature Climate Change 8:117-123

Link to video and images here. Please credit as marked.

Contacts:

Australia: Prof. Josh Cinner.
E: Joshua.cinner@jcu.edu.au
M: +61(0)417714138

UK: Prof. Katrina Brown.
E: Katrina.Brown@exeter.ac.uk

North America (USA): Prof. Eddie Allison.
E: eha1@uw.edu
M: +1 206 859 3438 (mobile)

Latin America (Chile): Dr. Stefan Gelcich
E: sgelcich@bio.puc.cl
P: +569 9577 8574

For more information:

Catherine Naum
Communications Manager
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University
Townsville, QLD AUSTRALIA
P: +61 (0)7 4781 6067
M: +61 (0) 428 785 895 (AEST/UTC +10)
E: Catherine.Naum1@jcu.edu.au

In a world first study, researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have unlocked the genetic mystery of why some species are able to adjust to warming oceans.

Adaptation to warmer water happens in the genes. Image: H. Veilleux

In a collaborative project with scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, the researchers examined how reef fish’s genes responded after several generations living at higher temperatures.

“Some fish have a remarkable capacity to adjust to higher water temperatures over a few generations of exposure,” says Dr Heather Veilleux from the Coral CoE.

“But until now, how they do this has been a mystery.”

Using cutting-edge molecular tools the research team identified 53 key genes that are involved in long-term, multi-generational acclimation to higher temperatures.

“By understanding the function of these genes we can understand how fish cope with higher temperatures,” explains Dr Veilleux.

“We found that shifts in energy production are key to maintaining performance at high temperatures,” says Dr Veilleux.

“Immune and stress responses also helped fish cope with warmer water.”

The project involved rearing coral reef fish at different temperatures for multiple generations in purpose-built facilities at James Cook University.

“We then used state-of-the-art genetic methods to examine gene function in the fish,” says Dr Tim Ravasi from KAUST.

“ By matching gene expression to metabolic performance of the fish we were able to identify which genes make acclimation to higher temperatures possible,” adds Professor Philip Munday from the Coral CoE.

The study is the first to reveal the molecular processes that may help coral reef fishes and other marine species adjust to warmer conditions in the future.

“Understanding which genes are involved in transgenerational acclimation, and how their expression is regulated, will improve our understanding of adaptive responses to rapid environmental change and help identify which species are most at risk from climate change and which species are more tolerant,” Dr Veilleux says.

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Paper:

Molecular processes of transgenerational acclimation to a warming ocean, by Heather D. Veilleux, Taewoo Ryu, Jennifer M. Donelson, Lynne van Herwerden, Loqmane Seridi, Yanal Ghosheh, Michael L. Berumen, William Leggat, Timothy Ravasi and Philip Munday is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2724

Images:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iaux0wgljooc1yu/AABxiMtWe6m_W3N0U0KpVWTYa?dl=0

(Images must carry credits as listed in Dropbox folder)

Contacts:

Dr Heather Veilleux – heather.veilleux@jcu.edu.au, +61 7 47814850ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Professor Philip Munday – Philip.munday@jcu.edu.au, +61 (0) 7 47815341ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Professor Timothy Ravasi – timothy.ravasi@kaust.edu.sa +966-544700067
KAUST Environmental Epigenetic Program (KEEP) and the Red Sea Research Center

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au