A NEW £50,000 aquarium has opened at Essex University to help research into coral reefs.

The tropical research facility at the Wivenhoe campus has unique experimental chambers to create different environments.

It doubles as a coral husbandry facility, taking away the need to buy coral for experiments and helping key research to be carried out under controlled laboratory conditions.

Dr Dave Smith, unit director, said: “We now have total control over coral growth conditions and this will enable us to answer key questions from the molecular to the ecosystem level. It is a new era of research for us and UK coral science.”

Projects being carried out at the aquarium include research funded by the Natural Environment Research Council into how different environments affect coral mortality.

A second project is studying how climate change affects reef structure.

Dr Smith added: “It is very important to determine how reefs will most likely respond to climate change, how fundamental changes will influences coral reef diversity and productivity and therefore the effects of climate change on the numerous ecosystem services provided by reefs to the half a billion people around the globe.

“It is all about linking the biological implications with the social implications and ensuring the unit’s research activities have maximum impact.”