Mote Marine Laboratory’s Micro-Fragmentation and Fusion Method can speed the growth of brain, boulder, and star corals- a trio of reef-building species. (Image credit: Pixabay)

 

This year’s Earth Day theme is “Protect our Species,” and rightfully so as life on land and sea are headed for extinction at alarming rates. While our oceans are seeing dwindling numbers in terms of fish, sharks, and whales (and other marine animals), coral reefs are also endangered, and it’s expected by 2030 that 90% of all global reefs will be in danger of eradication.

 

Not all hope is lost it seems, as researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory (Florida) may have found a solution to increase growth rates of certain coral species significantly, which in turn can help to restore the dwindling population of entire reefs. The researchers dubbed their new technique ‘Micro-Fragmentation and Fusion,’ or microfragmenting, which is a method of cutting healthy living corals into several pieces and propagating their growth in underwater nurseries and specialized tanks.

 

 

It should be noted that the researchers are using the microfragmentation method on brain, boulder, and star corals- several species known to be reef builders and facilitate growth. What makes them ideal, is that fragments of those corals can spread tissue over ceramic tile substrates very quickly, and then integrated into larger communities through isogenic fusion (those that have the same, or relatively the same genes and melding with them).

 

Corals that have undergone the microfragmentation process can grow to full size within 4 to 12 months, and once they reach maturity, can then be replanted in dying or stagnated reef communities, with the process repeated over again. Think of it like planting trees to replenish a disappearing forest- growing seedlings into saplings, and planting them anywhere to rehabilitate or produce a new forest. The researcher’s goal is to rekindle the Florida Reef Tract, the world’s third largest reef, and a vital ecosystem for underwater life.

 

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