Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Saving Our Coral Reefs

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.

Image result for growing coralThis 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).


  1. It’s sad to see that human interaction whether indirectly or directly is affecting coral reefs so greatly. This post gave me hope for the future of the reefs. If people start recognizing the effect they have on the marine ecosystem, specifically the coral reefs, maybe they will be more conscious the next time they do something potentially hazardous to the ocean. It’s really great to see that scientist are working on a way to bring back the population of coral rather than giving up and letting all the coral die, which would ultimately leave many marine species without habitats to live in.

    Emily Mueller (Group 2)

  2. It is very exciting news that there are ways to restore coral reefs and that we will be able to see them grow as they did before. I’m curious about whether or not we will ever reach a certain point of genetic diversity as we had previously, since only a certain species of coral reef may reproduce and thrive. Also, I wonder how the ocean environment will change in the future, whether it will get even more acidic or not and how this will affect the coral reefs in the future. I hope to see these coral reefs thrive as they have in the past as I have never seen these coral reefs in their natural habitat before.

    Yustina Kang (Group 2)

  3. I was just in Australia over winter break and got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. It was amazing how much duller the colors looked in real life, and I am so glad to see that people are putting in the efforts to conserve them. It is also very exciting to see that there is a future for not just conservation, but restoration. Also, one of the crew members told me during some stormy seasons, some small sand islands will disappear and resurface in other areas. It's not always humans causing the reef to diminish, some of it is natural!

    Dasha Agoulnik

  4. I was also planning on doing a blog post on the oceans coral reefs dying, but more specifically how global warming and rising ocean water temps have started bleaching coral reefs so not only is coral dying but its loosing all of its beautiful colors. The first time I went scuba diving was in 2008 or so in Puerto Rico, it was spectacular, the colors and fish and life on the reefs 40 ft down on the ocean floor was like a whole other world. about 2 years ago now I went back and went diving again, so disappointing in comparison to my first dive. In a matter of seven years there has been a noticeable decline in the colors and the varieties of corals that are still somehow able to survive the increasingly changing temps. only the tough durable corals have been able to survive, limiting the colors and types you get to explore as a diver. The types of coral on the reef also affects the fish and life you find inhabiting the reef; also disappointing compared to the first time I dove, not only had the variety of fish dipped in numbers but the amount of fish swimming in and around the reefs was a fraction of the number of fish you would normally see. But the new techniques scientists have been developing to save and replenish coral reefs have been successful so far and show major promise for the future of coral reefs around the world!

    -Kelsey Morrison

    1. I wasn't aware that coral is being bleached as well as just dying off and thats definitely disappointing to hear. Whether or not these techniques will ever be able to fully restore the reefs remains to be seem but after hearing about how they're bleached as well I'm not sure they'll ever be quite the same. I'm jealous and wish I had gotten the opportunity to see them as well.

      -Cole DiStasio (Group 1)

  5. This is amazing that there are coral spores growing from the lab into real environmental conditions. I believe these are a good start butI am wondering to know how far we can take this application into effect without hindering other ocean life and also to what extent is this a beneficial plan before it goes to far?

    -Michael Sheikhai

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