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British coral predicted to be resilient to climate change - University of Exeter

An iconic coral species found in UK waters could expand its range due to climate change, new research shows.

The pink sea fan is a soft coral that lives in shallow waters from the western Mediterranean (southern range) to north-west Ireland and the south-west of England and Wales (northern range).

pink sea fan coral
Pink sea fan. Credit Andy Wrightson

The species is classified as "vulnerable" worldwide and it is listed as a species of principal importance in England and Wales under the NERC Act 2006.

The new study, by the University of Exeter, found that the species is likely to spread northwards – including around the British coast – as global temperatures rise.

The results could be used to identify priority areas to protect pink sea fan populations.

"We built models to predict the current and future (2081-2100) habitat of pink sea fans across an area covering the Bay of Biscay, the British Isles and southern Norway," said Dr Tom Jenkins, from the University of Exeter. The model predictions revealed current areas of suitable habitat beyond the current northern range limits of the pink sea fan, in areas where colonies have not yet been observed. It's not clear why pink sea fans have not yet colonised these areas. Possible barriers include insufficient dispersal of their larvae and high competition between species for space and resources."

The study examined another soft coral species called dead man's fingers. For this species, future predictions revealed an overall decrease in suitable habitat in the southern portion of the study area and an accompanying increase in the northern portion of the species’ range.


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Posted On: 27/05/2022

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