British coral could expand its range, as it becomes more resilient to climate change.
That’s according to research by the University of Exeter, which has revealed that pink sea fan – a soft coral found close to the Mediterranean and UK, is likely to spread northwards as temperatures increase.
This will mean it becomes far more abundant around the British coast, despite being classified as ‘vulnerable’ under the NERC Act 2006.
The scientists have stressed that although a hike in numbers may seem positive, it can also be a marker of how different habitats are being impacted, with increased degradation.
Dr Jamie Stevens from the University explained: “This research highlights the complex effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, in which the ranges of some species respond to warming by shifting pole-wards.
“In a rapidly changing mosaic of habitats, some species – typically those favouring warmer conditions – may come out as short-term winners.
“How long these species can continue to expand and benefit in the face of accelerated warming remains to be seen.”
Other coral species such as dead man’s fingers were also predicted to have the same fate, as conditions in the Southern regions become less tenable and more begin to migrate northwards.
The researchers are hopeful their findings can help identify areas of protection for the coral, to support marine biodiversity and protect other wildlife.