This experiment in the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific is allowing researchers to enumerate the number of baby corals settling on a reef.
Recent studies show that corals are establishing new reefs in temperate regions as they retreat from increasingly warmer waters at the equator.
Writing in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, researchers from 17 institutions in six countries report that the number of young corals has declined by 85% on tropical reefs during the last four decades, but -doubled on subtropical reefs.
“Climate change seems to be redistributing coral reefs, the same way it is shifting many other marine species,” says lead author Nichole Price, from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, US.
“The clarity in this trend is stunning, but we don’t yet know whether the new reefs can support the incredible diversity of tropical systems.”
The research team has compiled a global database of studies dating back to 1974, when record-keeping began. They hope other scientists will add to it, making it increasingly comprehensive and useful to other research questions.