VIDEO: A Coral “Noah’s Ark” Could Save an Endangered Florida Reef.
To save coral species from extinction, conservationists in Florida are constructing a “Noah’s Ark” laboratory breeding program.
This year, researchers discovered that Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which first appeared in 2014, had spread across the entire 170-mile Florida Reef Tract, the world’s third-longest reef.
According to Andrew Walker, CEO and president of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the “days of really wild coral reefs are more or less over” due to climate change, pollution, and other reasons, and the only hope for rescuing them is modern breeding technology.
“The reefs will perish unless humans intervene,” Walker predicted. “We need corals to be resistant to diseases other than SCTLS [Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease], such as rising water temperatures, salt increases, and so on.”
There are 45 species of stone coral on the Florida reef, and the disease has destroyed 22 of them so far.
The “Noah’s Ark” rescue mission is a large-scale human intervention. Its success, according to Walker, is contingent on the breeding effort producing disease-resistant coral and then replanting it widely.
“We still don’t know much about the disease that wiped out the reef here in Florida and is now endangering reefs hundreds of kilometers away in the Caribbean,” Walker said.
Walker stated, “I’ve never seen a sickness wreak this much harm in such a short period of time.” “We believe it’s a virus that looks to damage the coral’s tissue, but we can’t be sure…. We’ve seen 300-year-old coral perish just two weeks after contracting the disease.”
Scientists are still unsure where Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease originated, though it is thought to have been transmitted across the ocean by plankton or in ships’ bilge tanks, which store wastewater.
Antibiotic pastes have been used to try to halt the spread of disease, but according to Walker, these attempts simply slow the disease down and aren’t a long-term or large-scale solution.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs make up less than 1% of the world’s seas, but they are home to about 25% of marine fish species at some point in their lives.
Environmental groups have cited research suggesting that the loss of coral reefs has far-reaching repercussions, not only for humans. This is a condensed version of the information.