Researchers in Bermuda have released a new study on how corals absorb light in different conditions.

The paper, by postdoctoral researcher Yvonne Sawall and her adviser, associate scientist Eric Hochberg, examined how reefs optimise their photosynthetic abilities.

Dr Hochberg said: “This work is important because we have only a general understanding of how a coral reef works as an interconnected system, but we know that any system — for example your car — needs energy to run.

“This work is helping us understand how coral reefs get and use their fuel. We can explore how environmental conditions influence these processes, which in the long run is crucial to understanding the impacts of global change.”

Most studies into coral photosynthesis have used data gathered over a short period, but the researchers, based at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, wanted to use a longer time frame.

They also used data from the Bermuda Weather Service to factor in the effect of cloud cover, which limits sunlight on reefs.

Their results suggested that reefs — much like plants — regulate how much energy they collect from sunlight so they do not absorb more than they can use.

Dr Sawall told Science Daily, the American science website: “These results indicate that reef organisms, including both corals and algae, most likely optimise photosynthesis to the same degree as terrestrial plants, at the scale of a day or longer.”

The researchers are still studying photosynthesis in reef life, and are now looking at the relationship between the colour of an organism and its daily photosynthesis.