How Assisted Evolution may save coral reefs




A solution ?

We explain what it’s all about.

Coral reefs are an important part of the marine ecosystem and play a crucial role in the ocean’s biodiversity. Unfortunately, however, they are threatened by man-made factors such as climate change, overfishing and pollution. In recent years, however, science has made some progress in saving coral reefs. One of them is “assisted evolution.”

Assisted Evolution is a method of bioengineered coral reef rescue that aims to use natural variability within coral populations to immunize them from environmental threats such as increased water temperatures and acidity. This method consists of several steps: first, coral populations that are more resistant to elevated water temperatures are identified. Then, these corals are selectively bred to pass on their resistant genes to their offspring. Finally, the bred corals are released on reefs to test their resistance and monitor their growth rate.

There are also other approaches to Assisted Evolution, such as using CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology to modify corals specifically against certain environmental threats.

Several examples show that the use of assisted evolution is promising. One of these is the “Coral IVF” (In-Vitro Fertilization) project from Southern Cross University in Australia. In this project, corals that were resistant to elevated water temperatures were brought into a laboratory and artificially fertilized. The resulting larvae were then released onto natural reefs and their growth rate and resistance to elevated water temperatures monitored. The larvae that originated from the resistant corals had a higher survival rate and growth rate than the natural larvae.