The marine environment across oceans and depths is currently challenged by rapid climatic change, the result of only approximately 200 years of human industrial activity. Whole ecosystems are undergoing spatial and temporal shifts, and one state is replaced by another within our lifetime. But the sea is still being exploited and considered to be one of the major resources for the rapidly growing human population. We need to better understand cause and result, trends and patterns of change if we are to manage our future resources.
Some organisms, such as reef-building corals, are confounded by a very tight set of requirements for their development and sustainability. It is, therefore, expected that in a changing environment, some reefs might cease to exist or undergo shifts in community structure.
Our group studies the resilience of reefs and corals, in particular, to environmental change at the cellular to community scale. Our lab, located at the Interuniversity Institute in Eilat, runs in-situ as well as lab-based experiments to examine coral physiology and ecology under stress conditions such as ocean acidification, thermal stress and the combined effect of these two stressors.
Stress might also lead to compromised physiology and, in turn, increase the susceptibility of corals to diseases. One of the scopes of our team is to identify physiological thresholds at which the microbial community of corals undergoes shifts. Over these thresholds, commensally opportunistic microorganisms may become pathogenic, resulting in coral cover loss.