Global average sea surface temperatures have risen at unprecedented rates for the past three decades, with far-reaching consequences for coral reefs.
Today, the majority of coral reefs are surviving at their upper thermal limit and an increase in just one degree Celsius lasting longer than a few weeks can lead to coral bleaching and death. With projections of ocean warming expected to continue to rise by as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century, scientists are in a race against time to find new solutions to sustain reefs.
One promising solution is “coral gardening” or outplanting, a method where coral fragments grown in a nursery are transplanted onto degraded reefs. Successful outplanting raises coral biomass and helps to restore reef function. Each year, thousands of corals are outplanted using this method.
While effective, the technique is both time-consuming and expensive; the cost of reef restoration can reach $400,000 per hectare and success isn’t always guaranteed.
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