A new report was recently shared about two prominent coral reef ecologist’s plan to help out wild reefs with a hands-on approach to reef management that sounds eerily close to what we have been doing in our aquariums for decades. Through the years hundreds of peer reviewed publications have looked at the resistance and resilience of various corals, species, zooxanthellae strains and how this translates in corals’ ability to acclimate to a warming climate.
All of this environmental research has built up a pretty decent picture of what corals are capable of. Now, two highly resespected coral scientists, Dr. Ruth Gates of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and Dr. Madeleine van Oppen of the Australian Institute of Marine Science think we know enough about corals to start giving corals a helping hand through a method of assisted evolution.
In the researchers’ own words, “Such observations indicate that under the right circumstances, acclimatisation or adaptation can occur over relatively short time scales. If we could promote and enhance this natural adaptive ability across several coral species then this could help increase reef resilience in the face of current and future climate change”.
In a way this is what we reef aquarium hobbyists have been doing in our reef tanks for years; corals that grow fast and are resilient to environmental changes in our aquariums are the ones that get propagated and shared and go on to acclimate to even more reef tanks. What Gates and van Oppen are proposing is essentially playing “reef aquarist” on a massive and much more sophisticated scale.
As coral reefers we know that this approach could result in some really great coral gardens. Hopefully those resilient corals will be given the opportunity to have great reproductive success so these tougher corals can spread far and wide, and coral reefs given a fighting chance to weather our rapidly changing climate. [AIMS]