I am a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. My project is investigating the role of coralliths in coral reef recovery and expansion.
Most corals are attached to stable substrate, meaning that they are stationary, but coralliths are mobile corals. They form when coral larvae settles on a small piece of rubble on the sea floor. They then grow tissue around the surface of this substrate laying down layer upon layer of calcium carbonate skeleton getting larger and larger. As they are not attached to solid substrate they get pushed around by waves and grazing fish. They are therefore very resilient to abrasion and changes in their environment such as light availability and temperature shifts. Eventually they get so big that waves and animals can no longer push them around. In The Maldives it has been shown that at this point that they become excellent substrate for other corals to attach to, forming a new patch reef in an area which would otherwise not be stable enough for corals to grow. My PhD is investigating what it is about the physiology of the handful of coral species that can form coralliths that allows them to have this unique lifestyle, and what role they might play in different coral reef habitats.
Coral reefs are one of the most biodiverse habitat on the planet, meaning that they provide a home for many other species. The complexity of this habitat relies upon the productivity of corals themselves. They provide food, habitat, coastal protection and aid in nutrient cycling. It’s not just animals that rely on corals either, without them around half a billion people would lose their source of income and food security. I am pursuing a career in coral reef conservation because I feel we all have a duty to safeguard these beautiful ecosystems, for ourselves and for future generations.
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