Climate change poses an existential threat to the world’s coral reefs. Over the last three decades, the world has lost half its reefs.
New research has now identified an unexpected ally to help protect them from bleaching – dolphin poo.
Researchers from Zoological Society London (ZSL) say that vital nutrients in dolphin poo can enhance coral reef productivity and resilience.
Researchers studied spinner dolphins in coral reefs among the Maldives and Chagos archipelagos in the Indian Ocean to understand their impact on coral reef ecosystems. Famous for their acrobatic displays, spinner dolphins measure about 2 m in length. They live in warm ocean waters around the world.
The researchers observed that these dolphins entered the coral lagoons in the morning to spend around half their day, which is when they deposit their crucial, nutrient-rich excrement.
They estimated that each dolphin pod produced around 634lbs (288kg) of nitrogen every year. As a result, it provides a steady supply of essential nutrients into the ecosystem. This allows them to grow faster and increase their resilience to outside pressures.