Coral reefs are not just beautiful, they’re an essential part of the coastal ecosystems in which they occur. They harbor extensive biodiversity, and provide a lot of resources for people living near them. However, overfishing, increasing ocean acidification, and increasing ocean temperatures threaten those reefs. In a lot of ways, coral reefs can be looked upon as ocean forests: They are intricate and diverse ecosystems that can be irreparably damaged by removing or changing even one part of the local climate.
This is why Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy are working together to launch a 15-year program to restore coral reefs in the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. They will begin with a year of working together to establish common understandings and decide precisely how to go about accomplishing their goals over the next decade and a half.
Among the organizations’ goals is restoring over one million corals, which will start with a process of growing 50,000 coral fragments into stable specimens that can be integrated into existing reefs.
Mote has been working for years to develop systems to grow coral in labs, which can then be planted in depleted reefs to help them recover. To date, Mote has already planted around 20,000 corals and is working to determine which strains are the most resistant to threats. Over the last 12 years, The Nature Conservancy has planted more than 15,000 coral colonies.
Both Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy are independent organizations with a long history of working to protect and restore coral reefs, so if anyone can pull off a project of this scope, it’s these two groups. This is exactly the kind of work that needs to be done in order to preserve and restore existing ecosystems, while governments and other organizations work to reduce emissions and other human activates which threaten those ecosystems in the first place.