Could transplanted corals save Caribbean reefs?

As coral die-offs continue, researchers look for ways to revive Caribbean reefs

As corals in the Caribbean face continued die-offs due to warming waters, researchers are considering ways to transplant more resilient corals from elsewhere around the world to buffer Caribbean reefs.

Mikhail Matz, a coral geneticist at the University of Texas at Austin, says that while transplanting coral may be a radical solution, the region’s reefs are in a desperate situation. 

“By some estimates, corals in particular regions have declined by more than 80% in the past two decades,” writes Nature. “A prolonged and record-breaking heatwave last summer further raised the sense of urgency.”

Biologists have tried planting young, native corals, but they have struggled to establish themselves in the warm waters. Metz wonders if transplanting hardy corals form the Indo-Pacific could help maintain reefs in the Caribbean, which play critical roles in the marine ecosystem and help prevent coastal erosion.

“It’s an 11th-hour solution,” Matz said. “And it is now 11.45.”

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Header Image: Hardy coral species like table coral (Acropora hyacinthus) thrive in waters of the Indo-Pacific. Credit: Paul Muir