Scientists might have discovered how to save coral reefs

New research has shed light on a potential solution method of strengthening coral reefs.

Tyler MacDonald | Jul 11, 2018

Researchers might have discovered a way to save coral reefs by strengthening them in order to create resistance to pollution.

"If we are to conserve or restore [coral reefs], we need to understand coral health what drives tolerance and how can we promote it," Caroline Palmer of the University of Plymouth, co-author of the paper, said in a press release. "If you have a strong immune system, and the energy to support it, you are more likely to be healthy and to survive adverse conditions."
"There is currently a lot of interest in creating more tolerant corals through genetic engineering and of restoring reefs by targeting more resilient corals," she said. "I fully support these approaches, but believe understanding what drives coral health will be key to their success."

Palmer has been analyzing the coral reef immune system over the past decade. Across the years, she has discovered that corals with stronger immune systems are typically less likely to be bleached or die.

"There is no question that climate change is devastating coral reef systems," Palmer said. "But if we are to conserve or restore them, we need to understand coral health - what drives tolerance and how can we promote it. If you have a strong immune system, and the energy to support it, you are more likely to be healthy and to survive adverse conditions."

Palmer believes that there is lots of interest in creating tolerant corals using genetic engineering to restore reefs by focusing on the most resilient corals.

"I fully support these approaches, but believe understanding what drives coral health will be key to their success," she said.

The findings were published in Communications Biology.