Underwater thermometers serving coral reefs

Near the Bahia Islands (Honduras), scientists have installed forty underwater temperature recorders on coral reefs to monitor conditions critical for the survival of corals. These devices, known as ONSET TidBits, record the water temperature every minute and store the collected data. Every few months, divers retrieve this data, allowing scientists to analyze the thermal conditions that the coral reefs face.

These studies are particularly important because corals need stable thermal conditions for proper development. An increase in water temperature can lead to coral bleaching, a process that disrupts the photosynthesis of symbiotic algae. As a result, toxic oxygen free radicals are produced, contributing to the disappearance of the algae. Corals, after losing their main source of energy, die from malnutrition. However, if the temperature returns to an optimal range in time, the corals have a chance to recover. Prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures can lead to permanent damage to coral reefs, or even their death. This phenomenon is becoming increasingly common with global warming, highlighting the need for research and the implementation of strategies to improve the situation.

Recent studies indicate an increasing frequency and intensity of coral bleaching due to global warming. However, some coral species show greater resistance to elevated temperatures, which gives hope for the adaptation of coral reefs in the future. Understanding the temperatures that naturally occur in their environment will help in developing strategies to protect these more resistant corals.

Temperature sensors have been installed at 20 locations on the Bahia Islands, each equipped with a pair of sensors placed 200 to 400 meters apart. Scientists have taken georeferenced photos of reef sections between the sensors, which has allowed them to correlate temperature readings with the physical and biological features of the coral reef. This solution enables the examination of whether coral reefs with greater species diversity or more complex structures are better adapted to withstand higher temperatures.

Researchers hypothesize that a better understanding of the relationship between the structure of coral reefs and the temperature range in which they function could help create a global tool. This tool would enable the assessment of how well coral reefs are adapted to cope with higher temperatures.

About the author

Picture of Grzegorz Bubak

Grzegorz Bubak

My fascination with marine aquariums began over two decades ago when I stumbled upon an article about this topic in a magazine. Since then, the underwater world has become my obsession and passion, shaping my everyday life. I started my adventure with marine aquariums with soft corals, which were my first step into this fascinating world. Over time, captivated by the diversity and beauty of SPS corals, I decided to focus on their cultivation, which continues to fill me with constant wonder.

Thanks to my experience and passion for marine aquariums, I am ready to share my knowledge and expertise with other enthusiasts in this field. I am happy to be part of the Reef Pedia community, which serves as an invaluable source of information for all marine aquarium lovers.