New Scientific Breakthrough Could Save The Coral Reefs

For years, scientists have warned that the world’s coral reefs are under threat from climate change, which has spawned viruses and bacteria in the warmer ocean waters. The result has been an increased level of bleaching and death among the coral reefs, which leaves many sea creatures without their natural habitat and place of protection.

Now, however, a new method of spawning coral may be able to make all the difference when it comes to producing new coral, according to Reuters:

“The achievement, announced this week at the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach near Tampa, borrowed from lab techniques developed at the London-based Horniman Museum and Gardens and used previously to induce spawning of 18 species of Pacific coral, officials said.

“Scientists plan to use their newly acquired expertise to breed new coral colonies that can one day repopulate the beleaguered Florida reef system, one of the largest in the world and one decimated by climate change, pollution and disease in recent decades.”

Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist at the Florida Aquarium, noted that the encouraging results are good news:

“This is truly the future of coral restoration in Florida and around the world. We’ll be able to do this for dozens of species, and it opens up a world of new possibilities.”

O’Neil’s remarks were echoed by Roger Germann, CEO of the Florida Aquarium, who told CNN:

“It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world. Our team of experts cracked the code…that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.”

EcoWatch explained the difficult goal that was set before Project Coral:

“(It) tackled the exceedingly complex task of creating an environment that will mimic the oceanic conditions that will signal corals to reproduce. To get the Atlantic pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) to spawn, the scientists at the aquarium used advanced LED technology to mimic sunrises, sunsets, moon phases, temperature and water quality to create spawning conditions.”

Some strains of coral are already considered extinct, and have been decimated because the remaining male and female colonies are scattered too far apart to successfully reproduce.

Disease also threatens coral colonies around the globe:

“The Florida Reef Tract has lost more than 90 percent of its staghorn and elkhorn corals due to pollution, disease, climate change and boat damage. However, a renewed urgency to preserve a healthy coral gene pool set in with the discovery of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, a menacing disease that attacks 25 different species of coral and has spread throughout the Florida Reef Tract, according to the aquarium.

“The scientists first started working on the staghorn coral five years ago, but then shifted focus to the pillar coral since it is almost extinct after stony coral tissue loss disease attacked it. The corals need the scientists since the remaining male and female clusters are too far apart to reproduce, according to CNN.”

But Project Coral could make those concerns a thing of the past, with new colonies being created and then put in place where needed in whatever portion of the oceans are most in need of new coral growth. As Germann optimistically predicted:

“We’re going to ramp it up. We aren’t going to rest. We want to see a diverse coral reef.”

Featured Image Via Nick Hobgood/Wikipedia

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Andrew Bradford

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