January 31, 2017

Campaign Launched to Rescue Coral

Click here to view our Generosity.com campaign

As you may know, 2016 was the hottest year in recorded history, and our and others' reef surveys have shown that about 30% of the Great Barrier Reef and perhaps 15% of the world's coral reefs were killed due to high temperatures.  Aside from being beautiful to look at, attracting vast numbers of tourists, and protecting the coast from storm waves, coral reefs are a huge storehouse of potentially life-saving genetic biodiversity. For example, the most powerful drug (Ara-C) used to fight childhood leukemia was derived from a Caribbean sponge.

However, there is hope! Some corals are adapting faster than others, and in some areas such as the Red Sea, they survived very high temperatures  –  95°F (35°C). How can we use this natural adaptation to help remaining corals survive increasing temperatures? To do this, we need to know at exactly what temperatures different species of corals in different locations are bleaching and dying. If we can locate the most resistant corals we can use them to help reefs in other areas survive through methods such as transplantation, assisted reproduction, aquaculture, and introduction of microscopic algae that live inside corals. 

We thus need super-accurate thermometers that can be placed next to the corals in key reef areas that are threatened by over-heated waters. How accurate? The thermometer on an expensive dive watch may give a reading of 70°F, yet the real temperature could be anywhere between 68° and 72° F – not accurate enough to be useful for science, and most divers don't want to leave their dive watches on the reef for weeks at a time. We need special thermometers that are accurate to at least 0.02°C and also have a recording device called a data logger, allowing them to be left on the reefs for years while hourly water temperatures are recorded. Fortunately, scientists from the University of Miami and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have developed a very inexpensive and yet highly accurate data logger.  In partnership with them we will provide the labor — our teams of volunteer divers are willing to place these thermometers on designated reefs, and then later retrieve them by hand, download the temperatures, and place them back. 

Photo: Reef Check France

To fund this worthwhile endeavor we have launched a campaign on Generosity.com.  Your donation of any amount will help us to purchase 500 data loggers at only $10 per unit (much cheaper than commercial loggers), so that our volunteer Reef Check EcoDivers can get immediately to work and start tracking the temperatures accurately in places where reefs are likely to bleach again. Once we know where individual corals have adapted to overheating, our teams will collect tissue samples and begin to experiment with reef-saving techniques.  For most of us, coral reefs are far away. But for about 500 million people, they supply food on a daily basis. The reefs are dying and many scientists predict most coral reefs will be dead within a few decades.  This will cause a loss of food for children in places like the Philippines and Haiti, where life is already a struggle. Please donate, share our campaign on your social media, and help us solve this urgent problem.  As always, we greatly appreciate all of your support!