Scientists have figured out how to save coral reefs with transplants

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have tried to save a dying coral reef by replanting it with healthy new corals, which turns out to be a viable method of restoring reefs.

However, the success of such an operation depends entirely on the genetic diversity of transplanted clones, and not on the outstanding characteristics of individual individuals.

Earth has lost half of its coral reefs since 1950, according to a 2021 study. Their condition around the world continues to deteriorate rapidly due to the stress caused by climate change.

Scientists have already tried to give new life to deteriorating reefs by transplanting healthy corals onto them.

However, only a few of them took root in a new place. Now researchers at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences have found the key to successful coral transplantation.

The authors of the article focused on the critically endangered Caribbean stag coral Acropora cervicornis . Previous experiments have shown that some Acropora cervicornis outplants do better in some places than in others.

To find out why this is happening, the scientists used clones of just ten different coral specimens and transplanted samples of each into nine well-studied reef sites in the Florida Keys in the southeastern United States. They then tracked survival, growth, shape, and size of the outplants at each location.

The results showed that no single clone was the most successful in all environments – on the contrary, different clones were better adapted to different parts of the reef.

This means that the genetic diversity of coral grafts is critical to reef recovery. According to scientists, this strategy should be followed, and not try to grow one universal “super coral” for all reefs.

In the future, the authors plan to investigate how individual corals can adapt to different environments, that is, how much one individual can change shape, size and other characteristics in response to changing environmental factors on the reef. This “plasticity” may affect the chances of long-term transplant success.

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