WELLINGTON, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Crossbreeding of different types of microscopic algae that live in reef corals could enable corals to adapt to global warming, according to a New Zealand research on Wednesday.
A partnership, or symbiosis, between the algae and coral animals enabled corals to survive in nutrient-poor tropical oceans, and a change of just 1 or 2 degrees centigrade could cause a breakdown of this partnership and have dramatic effects on the reefs, said Victoria University researcher Shaun Wilkinson.
Warming ocean temperatures had already resulted in coral bleaching, death and the degradation of entire reefs.
Natural and human-assisted crossbreeding could allow the algae, and hence the coral, to better survive in these degraded environments.
"These algae are genetically and physiologically diverse, with some types being more thermally resistant than others," Wilkinson said in a statement.
"The creation of new genetic material through crossbreeding could create new algal strains that make corals better able to survive in a warming environment."
The research would contribute to a global effort to stop the demise of coral reefs, with recent studies suggesting the loss could occur within the next 100 years.
"There is an emerging field that seeks to selectively breed thermally-resistant corals for the rehabilitation of reefs," he said.
"Looking at the different ways that corals can evolve and react to temperature changes will be important as the oceans continue to warm."