Saving Our Coral Reefs
I'm sure we've all heard of or seen pictures of Coral Reefs. Colorful, beautiful and diverse are all words that come to mind when thinking about these reefs. They make up less than .1% of the oceans surface yet house around 25% of all marine species. However, Coral Reefs have been slowly dying as a result of tourism, pollution, overfishing, rising ocean temperatures and changes in pH. Over the last 40 years roughly 80% of coral in the Caribbean has disappeared. My generation will never be able to see these reefs in all their glory, but coming generations may never have a chance to see them at all if this trend continues.
Luckily, scientists have recently made an incredibly important breakthrough. For the first time ever coral, raised in a lab, has been reintroduced into the wild and reproduced on it's own. The gametes of the endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) were taken in 2011 and by 2015 had grown to about the size of a soccer ball and reproduced out in the wild. This may not seem like much, but is certainly promising for the future of these coral reefs.
This isn't the only coral restoration project going on at the moment but their technique for coral restoration makes them quite unique. Most other efforts use a method called coral gardening where pieces of coral are taken, cared for in a lab and then replanted when they have reached a decent size. This method limits genetic diversity whereas this new method which is raising coral from gamete cells actually manages to increase genetic diversity in the population it is placed into.
This is great news for the field and means there's a chance we might start to see growth in coral populations in the coming years. Future generations may be able to see these reefs after all.
References: "Restoration of Critically Endangered Elkhorn Coral (Acropora Palmata) Populations Using Larvae Reared from Wild-caught Gametes."Restoration of Critically Endangered Elkhorn Coral (Acropora Palmata) Populations Using Larvae Reared from Wild-caught Gametes. N.p., n.d.
Posted by "Cole DiStasio" (1).