Restoring coral to health
Restoration approaches to increase the resilience of corals are necessary to counter environmental pressures relevant to climate change projections. To that end, tools exist to maintain or even rebuild and rehabilitate reefs, enhance recovery rates and promote resistance to environmental pressures.
Corals are able to respond to changes in their environment through acclimation (the physiological process of becoming accustomed to a new condition) and adaptation and researchers believe natural populations may already be adapting to increasing sea surface temperatures.
A deeper understanding of how coral holobionts (the coral animal together with its associated algae, bacteria and viruses) respond or adapt to stress provides opportunities to modify these responses, using the same mechanisms that corals have naturally evolved to survive stress.
The ability of at least some coral species to adapt to changing environmental conditions presents the possibility to use this capacity through a process known as environmental hardening, where young corals are preconditioned by gradually exposing them to higher temperatures, as a way to increase tolerance to future heat stress events. Researchers are also investigating the use of selective breeding using corals from the hottest reefs in the world to transfer heat tolerance to other populations.
Another strategy is the use of beneficial microorganisms for corals (BMCs) to improve coral health by potentially increasing nutrient input to mitigate stress and toxic compounds, or controlling pathogens.