Why take a chance when one of the world’s most vital ecosystems is already disappearing?
As it stands, things don’t look good for the world’s coral. We’ve lost 40% of the world’s reefs already, and every forecast shows the situation getting worse. As well as traditional threats like overfishing and coastal development, corals now have to contend with climate change, which not only warms the water but also makes it more acidic.
That’s why Mary Hagedorn thinks we need to move beyond traditional conservation efforts to something more radical: artificial reproduction. Hagedorn, a marine scientist with the Smithsonian Institution, is building the world’s largest repository of coral sperm (and soon coral eggs and embryos) in hopes of one day reconstructing species from scratch and replacing what we’ve lost.
To some, that might seem like an ambitious and perhaps unnecessary undertaking. But Hagedorn, who’s based in Hawaii, argues that coral reefs play a special part in the ocean and require all the effort we can muster. For one, reefs are home to a quarter of all ocean creatures and help maintain biodiversity. They also provide people protection against coastal surges and boost marine tourism. The Great Barrier Reef alone is said to generate about $6 billion for Australia’s economy.
“If coral reefs fail around the world, we have no idea how that ripple effect will impact the rest of the oceans,” she says. “And healthy oceans are really important to our survival.”
Coral—a unique form of life that is part animal, part vegetable, and part mineral—is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually. The simplest way is to snap off a piece and regrow it, like you were taking a cutting from the garden. But it’s not the best way, Hagedorn says. When you clone a plant, you’re simply reproducing it as it is, not breeding it in some new genetic form that’s potentially better.
“You can get more coverage, but you can [run] into problems, especially if diseases break out. One disease can devastate all the work you’ve done,” she says. “Having things that are produced sexually is often better, because you can throw the genetic dice and possibly a new adaptation will come along.”
For example, some years ago, staghorn coral fused with elkhorn coral to produce a new species called Acropora prolifera, which is now prevalent in the Caribbean. That’s good, because the hybrid is more heat-tolerant and surge-resistant than either of the varieties would be on its own.
The Latest on: Coral Reefs
via Google News
The Latest on: Coral Reefs
- Guam avoids severe coral bleaching predicted for this yearon October 13, 2019 at 9:03 pm
HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Official say vulnerable coral reefs on Guam have not experienced severe bleaching that was predicted for this year. Pacific Daily News reported that the Guam Bureau of Statistics ...
- What Did Hurricane Dorian Do to the Bahamas’ Coral Reefs?on October 13, 2019 at 8:16 am
As the people of the Bahamas struggle to recover from Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm in the nation’s history, a team of scientists is setting out to assess the damage to the vibrant coral reefs ...
- Caribbean coral reef could be destroyed to make way for cruise ships in the Cayman Islandson October 11, 2019 at 8:30 pm
It is one of Britain's most prized coral reefs, sitting off the coast of the Cayman Islands which were praised by Prince Charles as a "shining example" of a Commonwealth nation protecting its marine ...
- Half the World’s Coral Reefs Already Have Been Killed by Climate Changeon October 11, 2019 at 2:00 am
That makes delicate coral reefs around the world something of a leading indicator for the collapse of the ocean ecosystem. Half of all reef systems have already been destroyed, putting a quarter of ...
- Brazil: No bids received for oil fields near coral reefon October 10, 2019 at 1:49 pm
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Brazilian government has failed to auction four oil fields located near one of the nation's biggest coral reef systems. Seventeen companies participated in the 36-block ...
- Towards resilience and risk reduction for coral reefs in Central Americaon October 9, 2019 at 8:34 am
Insurance payments for restoring a coral reef after it has been smashed by a hurricane may seem a bit far-fetched. Nevertheless, this is one of a raft of measures being proposed for the world’s second ...
- This company is showing us how we can save our coral reefson October 8, 2019 at 12:15 pm
Meet the two futurists behind Coral Vita, a company that's changing our relationship with the ocean by restoring our coral reefs with land-based farming techniques.
- Predators and hidey-holes are good for coral reef fish populationson October 7, 2019 at 4:47 pm
New NSF-funded research by NC State scientists highlights two factors that play critical roles in supporting reef fish populations, and ultimately in creating conditions that are more favorable for ...
- NOAA awards $9.3M to studies focused on coral reef preservationon October 4, 2019 at 9:44 am
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s Queensland state. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program has awarded more than $9.3 million in ...
- New 3-D imaging technology maps Scottish coral reefson October 4, 2019 at 6:46 am
Newly developed 3-D imaging technology has allowed scientists to map an area of cold-water coral reefs off the coast of Scotland to see whether it has recovered since being declared a Marine Protected ...
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