Some coral skeletons of S’pore’s reefs deform & fracture more easily: study

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Scientists at the Earth Observatory of Singapore recently published a research study investigating the quality of skeletal structure of Singapore’s coral reefs.

The study published on March 8 compared Singapore’s reefs to those in Taiwan and Thailand.

“The Singapore corals studied had weaker mechanical properties and had more cracks than any other samples studied,” said PhD student Molly A. Moynihan, who is the lead author of the paper, in an Earth Observatory of Singapore blog post titled “How Strong are Singapore’s Reefs?”.

The study was done on a type of corals called the Porites which the researchers described as an important reef building coral found globally.

Why is this happening?

According to Moynihan, the quality of the coral skeleton is key to evaluating the health and resilience of coral reefs, alongside species abundance and diversity.

Corals build reefs by depositing calcium carbonate beneath their tissue.

Looking at the chemical composition, the study found that corals from environments with low salinity and greater sedimentation had more organic material in their skeleton.

These corals also displayed a reduced stiffness and hardness, making them more vulnerable to damage by other organisms and erosion.

Coral skeletons that deform and fracture more easily are also more vulnerable to climate change, Moynihan wrote.

Sedimentation is the greatest cause of reef degradation in Singapore

Sedimentation is the greatest cause of local reef degradation, according to the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Reef Ecology Lab

Since 1986, land reclamation efforts in Singapore have resulted in a loss of up to 65 per cent of our live coral cover.

Although our remaining reefs have persisted through stressors like coral bleaching, we should not take them for granted.

Coral reefs are a crucial marine habitat like no other. They provide a key ecosystem that supports a rich and diverse range of marine flora and fauna, and even serve as coastal protection by reducing wave energy.

Most of our coral reefs are situated near hard-to-reach offshore southern islands, but accessible coral patches can still be found near intertidal zones at Changi Beach, where visitors have recently been sighted catching wildlife.

Top photo via Getty Images