A last chance to save Australia's Great Barrier Reef: Scientists launch audacious plan to create fertility clinic to breed endangered coral ›
The world’s largest living organism has shrunk by about half over the past 30 years as a result of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and crown-of-thorns starfish, which prey on coral.
Some of its 400 or so species are endangered or threatened, and marine biologists fear they could soon be wiped out. The establishment of a gene bank, using human fertility techniques, is a bold response by scientists seeking to conserve the reef, which runs for 1,600 miles off the Queensland coast. “We create a coral fertility clinic and we put them [the sperm and embryonic cells] in a bank, to hold them for now, but to use them in the future,” Mary Hagedorn, from the US’s Smithsonian Institution, said.
Dr Hagedorn, a marine biologist who perfected the techniques while working with coral in Hawaii, is liaising with Australian colleagues to deploy those techniques in the cause of conservation. Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science helped to gather samples for the DNA bank, which has been set up at Western Plains Zoo in the town of Dubbo, in the New South Wales outback, 250 miles from the sea.
The project is akin to a captive breeding programme for endangered animals. If all goes according to plan, the genetic material will be thawed and used to grow new coral which will then be reintroduced into “the wild” – transplanted back into the ocean – to help restore and repopulate damaged reefs.
Another climate change related seed bank is fired up, this time for coral. Perhaps Earth’s fate is “Museum”. More on this depressing read, here.