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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Southampton coral researcher recognised with prestigious award

Research by Dr Jörg Wiedenmann at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton into a process that is threatening to wipe out coral reefs has been recognised with a 1.29 million euro award from the European Research Council.

Dr Wiedenmann, who heads the University of Southampton's Coral Reef Laboratory, will continue investigations into how nutrient starvation influences the susceptibility of reefs to ‘coral bleaching'.

Porites sp. in the Persian Gulf
Bleached corals

Corals are animals that live in a mutually beneficial, or ‘symbiotic', relationship with algae that are hosted in their tissue. Research by Dr Wiedenmann and colleagues, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that infavourable levels of nutrients in the water lower the threshold when elevated water temperatures and light act together to induce a loss of the algal symbionts from the corals. This ‘bleaching' process turns the corals white and might kill them.

Dr Wiedenmann says: "The pollution of coastal water has been identified as a pressing problem for coral reefs. A better understanding of the links between disturbed nutrient levels and coral bleaching is vital to develop marine and coastal management strategies, which help to ensure future health of coral reefs."

The award to Dr Wiedenmann has been given under the ERC's ‘Starting Grant' scheme, a highly competitive programme aimed at early-career researchers, supporting a new generation of top scientists in Europe.

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