Healthy coral reefs are one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. To lose them, would affect millions and completely devastate the ecosystems of our oceans. Corals cover only one percent of the planet, yet they are home to 25 percent of marine species and upwards of 40 million people rely on coral reefs for fish they eat. Reefs provide millions of dollars to tourism, play a pivotal role in pharmaceutical and play provide environmental services such as coastal protection.
A solution that they have found to be the most hopeful is in the form of growing reefs with resilient coral. A resilient coral reef is one that can either resist a large scale stressful event such as bleaching, or have the ability to recover from it.
Scientists are able to identify which corals are more resilient through test and then grow them in a nursery. Some corals are able to acclimate to local temperature increases over time and gives coral species the ability to be more resistant to bleaching event. In general, coral species that are more resistant to bleaching can be characterized by massive growth forms, thick or less-integrated tissues and slow growth rates.
Organizations such as Coral Restoration Foundation are taking the resilient corals and planting “fragments” into the declining reefs to rebuild them. Roughly, 30,000 coral fragment corals have been grown in nurseries in Florida, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. All fragments have been transplanted from the nursery to reefs in the hope that reefs can once again return to its proper form.
Coral reef ecosystems are on the decline currently. Hope is still holding out that our reefs are not lost as thousands of scientists, activist and volunteers are working to preserve and rebuild ecosystems. The steps we take today to address the threats they face will ultimately give these ecosystems a chance. By donating to organization such as Coral Restoration Foundation or using your time to volunteer, there will still be hope for our coral reefs.