New Discovery – “Microfragmenting” Can Save the Coral Reefs

Millions of coral can now be restored in just a few years.

A pioneering new breakthrough is helping coral to now grow up to 40 times faster than previously before in the wild. Just as human attention to environmental issues surrounding the Ozone Layer has allowed the Earth to repair its atmosphere, now advancements regarding the coral reefs have provided an optimistic outlook for the future.

Coral usually takes 25-75 years to achieve sexual maturity. An innovative new practice called “microfragmenting” speeds up that maturation process, allowing it to happen in just three years. The BBC reports that Dr. David Vaughan, the Senior Scientist & Program Manager for the International Centre for Coral Reef Research and Restoration at the Mote Marine Laboratory made the discovery when a coral specimen accidentally broke in the lab. Vaughan said:

“Little did I know that one Elkhorn Coral attached itself to the bottom of the aquarium. So when I went to move it, it stuck, and I heard a breaking sound. And it had broken into many tiny pieces. They grew back to the same size in just a few weeks that had taken three years to grow. We tried that with all the other species of corals in the Florida Keys and it worked for them all.”

Usually coral reestablishment can take decades.

“It took us six years to produce 600 corals. Now with microfragmentation we can cut and produce 600 corals in one afternoon. We are producing more corals faster than we can actually get new tanks to put them in and having to have almost a crew planting them as fast as we’re growing them” Vaughan said.

The Mote Marine Laboratory is currently repopulating corals on Florida’s Reef Tract off of the Florida Keys.

Vaughan said: “Corals the size of a small car could be 200-500 years old so it might take centuries for it to come back. We now take a coral the size of a golf ball and cut it into 20 to 100 microfragments. Each fragment grows to that size in as little as a few months, and when they touch each other as they're growing, they recognize each other as themselves and fuse back together. So we’ll plant 20 pieces that came from one, and in two to three years it will grow, re-fuse, and that would have taken 25-100 years. We’re also, in the future, trying to test what conditions may be there in 100 years from now, and try to anticipate which genetic strains will also be robust in our children’s lifetime. We might be able to take two resistant strains that are very tolerant of the future conditions and cross the two and make one that’s even more resistant.”

The crew’s goal is to repopulate 100,000 corals into the ocean by 2019, all thanks to Vaughan’s breakthrough.

“That was a moment that I realized that it was very possible in my lifetime that we could restore thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of corals in just a few years. But I’m helping and assisting people from other countries to do the same thing. So realistically we can get to that million mark in just one or two years from now,” Vaughan said.

“This is now a new discovery that can give real hope for our coral reefs that has never been there before. So I postponed my retirement until I see a million corals replanted back on the reef.”

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. How do you think, if at all, humanity’s understanding of itself as stewards and caretakers of the cosmos changes how we approach Earth’s environment?

**Q2.**Do you have hope that humans can use new methods and technological developments to renew, restore and redeem Earth?

Q3. How do you think that the use of science and technology might allow humans to re-create the Earth and the cosmos in new ways of flourishing?

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