Artificial coral propagation in the laboratory to restore reefs in the wild

Coral sex: artificial coral propagation in the laboratory

The coral reefs are home to a quarter of all the species found in the water. However, a climate change, an overfishing, and an air pollution can lead to the disappearance of these unique ecosystems from the Earth in the coming decades. The corals have already been under the threat of extinction, and the scientists are keen to find the ways to restore them. The corals break into fragments, thus the scientists have a process of their rapid growth, during that the hundreds of smaller ones are produced.

They can be grown in nurseries and then transplanted back onto the reef. The scientists decided to take this unique method as a basis to restore the coral reefs. If each new piece of coral is an identical copy of its parent, the result can be a unique colony that shares the genetic traits of the entire population.

The scientists note the importance of the process: having a diverse set of genetically determined traits can help tp protect against disease and a rapidly changing environment. The reproduction of corals in their natural environment is represented by a special action. The corals throw some of the cells involved in the fertilization process into the water.

They synchronize the so-called spawning with the full moon when the tides are particularly high. In such cases, powerful streams of water carry cells to distant reef colonies. The offspring formed that way has a unique combination of genetic material from different parents that leasds to the maintenance of genetic diversity. It is not easy to manage such process artificially, but it is possible.

The experts learned it. For example, in the CORALIUM laboratory of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a coral spawning is part of a larger scientific program. During the full moon, a team of specialists is sent to catch the spreading coral cells using special nets and plastic containers.

Millions of cells caught that way are sent to the laboratory, where they are cleaned, additional fertilization is carried out in a special water temperature and with constant care. The resulting larvae begins to build blocks of coral colonies.

It is now recognized that the Caribbean Fables have lost at least 80% of its coral since the mid-1970s. An artificial way of growing corals will help to fix the lost reefs.