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Resilient Reefs

February 3, 2015

Researchers apply principles of agricultural science to conserve coral reefs.



Andrew K  Temple Red Sea flickr

A coral reef community in the Red Sea. (Andrew K/flickr)

Improving coral reef resilience. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update

Coral reefs around the world are in decline due to ocean warming and acidification from climate change. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Marine scientist Madeleine van Oppen, at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, discusses using agricultural-style techniques to make coral communities more resilient-perhaps breeding new coral varieties, or changing the balance of microbes interacting with the corals.

MADELEINE VAN OPPEN (Australian Institute of Marine Science):

We think some of those approaches should work, because they work in so many other organisms, but we don’t know which ones will work.


To find out, she and her colleagues are embarking on a five-year project, testing different methods in a giant ocean tank large enough to simulate reef communities. If any of the methods seem promising, they’ll seek approval to study them, and possibly implement them, in wild reefs. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.