Coral reefs are degrading globally at a concerning rate of approximately 2% each year. Over the past decades, scientists have been working tirelessly to highlight the impacts and consequences of this loss. Despite these efforts, past strategies aimed at protecting the reefs have not effectively slowed this decline.
Events such as the global mass coral bleaching of 1998, 2010, and 2015-2017, alongside disease outbreaks in the Caribbean, have accelerated this decline. For instance, the Great Barrier Reef lost 25-30% of its coral cover due to bleaching in 2016-2017, and approximately 91% of the Caribbean reefs have disappeared.
Protecting and managing reefs is crucial, but recovery may not be possible for many reefs even if local threats are mitigated. Thus, restoration and rehabilitation are essential components of saving our reefs. Effective restoration programs should transition from focusing solely on increasing coral abundance to a genetic-based, ecosystem-scale approach to enhancing reef resilience.
Innovative techniques now enable reef managers to simulate natural adaptation processes, increasing genetic diversity within reefs and improving long-term survival rates amidst various disturbances.
This course’s initial sections will explore the theory behind adopting a genetic approach to coral restoration. We’ll start by discussing the importance of local reef managers and their indispensable role in ensuring the future of corals worldwide.