At the Mote Tropical Research Lab thousands of tiny corals are growing. Dr. David Vaughan, a marine biologist and executive director of the lab gets a flat rock from the bottom of a tank. On the rock a brain coral is growing, and growing at a rate 25 times faster than if in the wild. Other species have grown from tiny coral seeds at up to 50 times their normal rate.
The quick grow technique is called microfragmentation. The technique may make it possible to mass produce reef building corals for transplanting onto dead or dying reefs, perhaps slowing or even reversing the alarming loss of corals in the Florida Keys and else where.
Other projects to help grow corals are out there , but this is the most promising. If successful this technique, can help us buy time until science has an understanding of what is happening to coral on a larger scale.
With ocean warming, pollution, and acidification we have lost fully 25% of the world’s coral reefs.
Dr. Vaughan has been studying the massive species of coral like brain, star, boulder and mounding corals. They seem to be less susceptible to outside influences…but grow very slowly. Quicker growing corrals like the staghorn have been successfully reproduce, but can been more easily affected by pollution, warmer water, and acidification.
Dr. Vaughan stumbled upon the idea of microfragmenting when by accident he was transferring a colony of coral, but by accident broke one into a few pieces. He thought he had just killed those pieces, but no, in a few days he noticed these pieces were growing back together and had doubled in size. The coral seems to want to repair itself quickly, and grow back over it’s lost ground before someone else takes up it’s territory.
Since then they have taken the efforts out into the open water and areas where there has been corral death. The results are encouraging. Other considerations are how to ward of corals eaters like the parrot fish, and the answers are slowly coming.