News from U.S.- N.S.F. supported science

Taylor, Phillip R prtaylor at
Thu Aug 24 08:11:06 EDT 2000

See NSF Press Release below.

Phillip R. Taylor, Director
Biological Oceanography Program
Division of Ocean Sciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 725
Arlington,  Virginia,  USA  22230
703-292-8582,    fax: 703-292-9085  --  new phone and fax
prtaylor at

-----Original Message-----
From:	Jackson, Ketrina M 
Sent:	Wednesday, August 23, 2000 3:29 PM
To:	Edwards, Michelle; Joyner, Tarri; Weir, Ellen
Cc:	West, Peter T; Dybas, Cheryl; Noxon, William C
Subject:	August 23, 2000 Tipsheet

							 August 23, 2000



For more information on these science news and feature story
tips, please contact the public information officer at the end of
each item at(703) 292-8070. Editor: Peter West

As the summer winds down, many head to the mountains or the beach
to take a last-minute holiday. Scientists supported by the
National Science Foundation (NSF), meanwhile, head to the
mountains, the beach and even further afield to continue their

                     SUNBURNED CORAL REEFS?

   Recent evidence of "sunburned" Caribbean coral reefs seems to
confirm not only the gradual warming of the world's oceans, but
also the effect of warming on ocean ecology. "Coral is very photo-
and temperature-sensitive," explains marine ecologist William
Fitt, an NSF-funded researcher at University of Georgia. "We know
that if water temperature is too high for too long, everything
goes wrong very quickly -- like throwing a screwdriver into a
running engine."
  In addition to excessively warm water temperatures, a number
of other factors, including pollution, may be contributing to
widespread bleaching of corals. But Fitt says his research team
has now "caught the bandit in the act." A key protein in
photosynthesis, known as the D1 protein, is extremely temperature
sensitive. Tropical corals are actually made up of algae, living
inside a coral animal. If seawater temperatures during summer
remain too high for too long, photosynthesis in the coral's algae
breaks down, leaving the coral with less food.  The animal
starves, and its white skeleton becomes visible--hence the
bleached white color. "Tropical corals are already on the edge of
the 'temperature envelope' of life during most summers. If warmer
waters push it that little bit higher or longer, the results are
very evident," says Fitt. [Cheryl Dybas]

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