After marine heatwaves devastated the coral reef off the coast of Florida, scientists are now considering ways to toughen up coral in the face of rising ocean temperatures.
Following a record marine heat wave this past summer, Florida’s iconic coral reef experienced massive bleaching and die-offs. One estimate from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute estimated that 60% of monitored coral reefs were bleached as a result of the stress — a sign that the coral could potentially die off if the stress is prolonged.
Ian Enochs, the head of the coral program at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, told the Wall Street Journal that his team is looking at a variety of methods to help the vulnerable sea creatures bolster their numbers.
Enochs said that one method involved exposing the corals to “gyms”. In these tanks, corals are trained to withstand high temperatures and acidic seawater conditions in waves. The water is also injected with nitrogen and phosphorus — chemical pollutants most often associated with fertilizer runoff that could exacerbate coral bleaching.
“If we hit corals twice a day with very high stressful temperatures, it toughens them up,” Enochs told the Journal.
Another method that the team is looking at is targeting the reproduction of coral to help boost their populations. This includes administering in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to quicken the growth of their larvae and giving them booster shots to prevent them from dying after experiencing bleaching.
For years, scientists have been looking for ways to make coral resistant to heat as climate change results in more marine heatwaves and healthy coral reefs continue to decline. The BBC stated in 2020,, that researchers have tried to alter the algae on corals so that they are more resistant to heat. This will make coral bleaching less common.
Researchers are also breeding coral on land now to prevent more die-offs and determine which species are more likely to survive human-induced climate change.
“If the corals can be bred in tanks, and the offspring produced by the thousands, we will start making a difference,” Andrew Baker told The Journal. We are very good at destroying coral reef ecosystems. We just need to reverse that trajectory and become great at restoring them.”
The post Florida scientists are giving coral IVF treatments to help bolster dying reef appeared first on Business Insider.