Marine biologist Dr Emma Camp has been studying coral communities found in the hot, acidic, low-oxygen waters of a New Caledonian mangrove lagoon system - and believes that some species may be able to adapt to climate change.

Now Dr Camp and her team are set to search for similarly resilient species in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, previously uncharted for mangrove systems housing corals, says the university. She wants to study the genetic hardware that equips corals for survival in warm, acidic, hypoxic conditions.

“The existence of corals living under this usually deadly trio of conditions, comparable and even exceeding what is predicted under climate change, gives us new hope that some corals will be able to persist into the future,” says Dr Camp.

“These could indeed be the super-corals of the future that will help support proactive management options attempting to upgrade reef resilience.”

A grant from the National Geographic Society Waitt Foundation has provided the opportunity to assemble a multi-disciplinary team, armed with the latest technology, on a five-day expedition voyage from Port Douglas to Lizard Island that starts this week (from 12 June).

Dr Camp, a member of the C3 (Climate Change Cluster) future reefs research programme, will be accompanied by C3 leader Associate Prof David Suggett, who describes the project as “pioneering science” and a potential “game-changer” - though he warns against considering the project as suggesting an instant fix.

“Although our findings are extremely positive, we must not underestimate the threat to the world’s coral reefs from climate change,” he says. “We know reefs are terminally ill globally, and immediate action is needed to ensure their success.”

UTS collaborated with International Research for Development, Noumea (IRD) on the New Caledonia study, Reef-Building Corals Thrive Within Hot-Acidified and Deoxygenated Waters. It is published in Scientific Reports here

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