Feb 27 2013, 1:45am CST | by Luigi Lugmayr
Sydney, Feb 27 — Researchers are developing a "blood test" for corals to measure how they are being affected by climate change and human activity.
They found hemoglobin genes in the microalgae which live symbiotically with corals, which may provide a readout on how stressed a particular coral is - and how likely it is to bleach and die.
"Due to its sensitive nature, hemoglobin has the potential to be used as a stress biomarker. This, for the first time, gives us a clear readout of stress levels in the corals and their symbiotic algae," Rosic explains, according to a Queensland statement.
"Despite the importance of coral reefs to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, we still do not clearly understand how well they can cope with changed conditions of climate and the environment they now face," explained study co-author Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS).
Bleaching has hit more than half of the Great Barrier Reef in recent years, as well as a majority of coral reefs around the world.
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