Sarah: A recent study describing the varied impact of warming oceans on coral reefs in different locations reminded me of the Gaia hypothesis. Devised by Jim Lovelock in 1972, Gaia (rhymes with ‘higher’) proposes that the earth and its components are actively shaped by the processes of evolving plant and animal life. The long-term implications of Gaia are that the system as a whole will continue to exist regardless of the environmental insults we hurl at it. That’s not to say that life on Earth won’t change, just that the Earth and the life it can support will co-evolve to maintain a sort of equilibrium. Now getting back to that coral study: Australian and American scientists have found that unlike most coral structures, a reef located in the Northeast of Australia (the aptly-named Western Pacific Warm Pool) has a unique, local buffering mechanism which protects it against rising temperature-associated bleaching. Quite simply, the fact that waters immediately around the reef are innately warmer than those of the surrounding areas has prevented rapid local changes in sea temperature associated with recent climate change. The reefs therefore are in relatively good health compared to those found in cooler waters. To me this suggests that if our global temperatures do continue to increase, perhaps some reefs will be relatively resistant and persist into a new era of Earth’s evolution. Whether we humans will be here to enjoy the remaining reefs is of course another question entirely. If you want to read more about Gaia, dig around in your local libary to locate the following journal article: New Scientist 6 July 1991, Gaia by Andrew Watson, pages 1-4.