Buying Corals More Time
Researchers are using various methods to help corals worldwide survive in warming oceans
Many tiny algae live in corals and provide the inconspicuous animals with both color and nourishment. Warming oceans stress corals, causing them to release their colorful symbionts into the water. This exposes the corals to disease and starvation. The most extensive such “bleaching” event began in 2014 and lasted for a couple of years, damaging more than 70 percent of coral reefs worldwide. In the past 30 years, the world has already lost half of its corals, and researchers predict that by 2050, only 10 percent will remain, according to a Scientific American feature.
Scientists are scrambling to come up with solutions in order to help the corals survive, such as breaking them into tiny pieces and planting them on reefs where they can quickly regrow and form larger colonies. Researchers are also collecting sperm and eggs from spawning corals and fertilizing them in a lab to increase the animals’ genetic diversity and improve their chances of surviving in the wild. Some programs are working to enhance the ability of corals to adapt to warming waters by developing heat-resistant algae or turning on coral genes that can handle higher heat. But most of these methods are just a Band-Aid to buy the corals more time, the Scientific American story notes. To solve the problem at its core, humans need to slow global warming by increasing awareness and making policy changes.