Coral reefs around the world face growing danger from a changing climate, on top of the historic threats from local pollution and habitat destruction.
Coral reefs around the world face growing danger from a changing climate, on top of the historic threats from local pollution and habitat destruction. In response, scientists are researching new interventions that have the potential to slow coral reef damage from warming and acidifying oceans. The interventions span a wide range of physical and biological approaches for increasing the stability of coral reefs, but they have only been tested at small scales.
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examines these resilience tools and provides decision-makers with a process they can follow in considering whether to use one or more of the novel approaches.
Many of the new interventions seek to amplify natural resilience, such as laboratory breeding of corals that show greater heat resistance. Other methods, some merely on the horizon such as genetic manipulation of corals, might one day introduce new levels of stress tolerance. Ultimately, all interventions alter the reef in some way. These changes will result in benefits that differ across sites, and they may have varying unintended consequences – meaning that the risks and benefits need to be weighed locally, the report says.
“Maintaining the stability of coral reefs in the face of local and climate stressors is a key goal for supporting human well-being around the world,” said Stephen Palumbi, chair of the 12-member committee that wrote the report, and Jane and Marshall Steel Jr. Professor in Marine Sciences at Stanford University. “Many new interventions have promise for these efforts, but they differ widely in their readiness levels, and implementing them will require careful attention to regional contexts.”
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