The fight for coral reef survival

Facing drastic climate changes, scientists worldwide are striving to save coral reefs, which are not only invaluable for biodiversity but also crucial for marine ecosystems. One of the leading research centers in this field is the University of Derby, where Professor Michael Sweet’s team excels in developing methods for breeding corals resistant to climate change and diseases.

The main focus of their research is coral reproduction, which involves the release of male and female coral cells that float in the water and then fertilize, creating tiny larvae. This seasonal reproduction process is closely linked to seawater temperature and moon phases. In Derby’s laboratories, the breeding tanks are kept in dark rooms and illuminated by artificial moonlight, which allows spawning to be triggered according to a planned research schedule.

The foundation of the team’s work is a system that “coaxes” corals to reproduce throughout the year. Professor Sweet describes this as “enhanced evolution,” which means accelerating the natural adaptation mechanisms of corals. “As part of enhanced evolution, we conduct a series of tests on different coral species to identify those that cope best under extreme conditions,” he explains. “We then focus on breeding the most resilient individuals, which can contribute to the regeneration of dying reefs.”

Thanks to “on-demand” spawning, scientists can create coral colonies that are better adapted to warming waters. Despite promising results in the laboratory, Professor Sweet emphasizes that these innovations are only a partial solution. “These techniques are like applying band-aids—they give corals a better chance of surviving. However, none of the methods will work effectively unless we globally reduce our carbon footprint. It’s not just about limiting emissions, but about actually reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” warns the scientist.

Coral reefs, called “the rainforests of the oceans,” are home to about a third of all marine species. Moreover, organisms living in coral reefs provide 95% of the protein for over half a billion people, particularly in developing countries. It is also known that coral reefs protect coastal communities from storms.

Facing record ocean temperature rises, we are witnessing a global mass bleaching of corals, leading to their death. While scientific innovations can support the reconstruction of coral reefs, global actions to protect the environment and combat climate change play a crucial role.



About the author

Picture of Grzegorz Bubak

Grzegorz Bubak

My fascination with marine aquariums began over two decades ago when I stumbled upon an article about this topic in a magazine. Since then, the underwater world has become my obsession and passion, shaping my everyday life. I started my adventure with marine aquariums with soft corals, which were my first step into this fascinating world. Over time, captivated by the diversity and beauty of SPS corals, I decided to focus on their cultivation, which continues to fill me with constant wonder.

Thanks to my experience and passion for marine aquariums, I am ready to share my knowledge and expertise with other enthusiasts in this field. I am happy to be part of the Reef Pedia community, which serves as an invaluable source of information for all marine aquarium lovers.

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