Researchers Breeding 'Super Coral' to Help Weather Global Warming


Hawaii already has experience of breeding sea urchins to gobble up invasive seaweed, now The Guardian reports on researchers at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology who are working to combat the massive global coral bleaching that is currently under way.

The basics are fairly simple: Researchers are searching bleached reefs to find surviving, more resilient coral, and then they are taking them back to the lab to gradually expose them to warmer, more acidic water that mimics the changes expected as the oceans warm and absorb more carbon dioxide. Those specimens that thrive are then bred with other similarly resilient specimens, with the aim of giving evolution a helping hand and speeding up the kinds of adaptation strategies which would have occurred in the wild anyway. They aren't the only ones working on it. Mike previously reported on Stanford researchers who are seeking out and transplanting heat resistant coral.

I am sure there will be plenty of environmentalists who are creeped out/concerned about humans seeking to exert more control over natural ecosystems. From plagues of rabbits to super weeds, the risks of unintended consequences are always there when we choose to tweak nature.

But the fact is, we are tweaking nature anyway on a global scale and the oceans are going to be warming at an unprecedented rate for decades and even centuries to come. I am beginning to suspect that we have no choice but tweak—we just need to be intentional about what tweaks we make.

And of course, in the meantime, let's stop making things worse.