Coral Restoration Research Findings Bring Positive News for the Future of Coral Reefs
There was grim news for the world’s coral reefs this October, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the third global coral bleaching in history. This event signifies major changes in oceanic living conditions and temperatures, some of which are brought upon by our actions. Coral reefs are an endangered species that researchers across the globe are working to protect, including our team at Shedd Aquarium.
When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissue, which is called zooxanthellae, causing them to turn completely white. This “coral bleaching” can be caused by changes in oceanic temperature, runoff and pollution, overexposure to sunlight and extreme low tides. This year’s El Niño is the largest cause of the global coral bleaching event, and is expected to impact about 35 percent of the ocean’s corals.
Coral bleaching is important, and serious, because it threatens the survival of coral reefs, which are vital ecosystems that 25 percent of the ocean’s plant and animal species depend on. Less known is the way in which we as humans depend upon them. These animals protect tropical ocean-side communities from storms, support the fishing industry and are associated with a biochemical treasure trove now being used for all types of medical advancements. With this in mind, Shedd Aquarium, the SECORE Foundation and other members of the aquatic research community have been working together to find ways to protect and restore corals and coral reefs.