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New funding to support coral restoration

Published on: 8 November 2023

Newcastle University has been awarded a new research grant which will support implementation of coral reef restoration interventions that aim to enhance adaptation to climate change.

The University has received a $1,459,302 CORDAP grant to quantify and operationalise genetic adaptation for successful coral restoration.

Tropical coral reefs provide enormous benefits to society but are declining as a result of human activities such as climate change. Hope for reefs lies in the ability of corals to adapt to rising sea temperatures. We may even be able boost reef resilience if we can enhance coral heat tolerance using methods such as selective breeding.

To do this, it is important to first know how much heat tolerance varies among corals and how genes and environment influence adaptation. The new project CORALADAPT has two main goals: firstly, to narrow uncertainty of coral adaptation potential for a diversity of reef environments and taxa, and secondly, provide the first quantitative blueprint for using restoration to build climate resilience in coral reefs. Collectively, this project will strengthen the design and implementation of national reef restoration policies in the Philippines and Palau, making them more efficient and climate-smart. The results of this project will also be generalized and communicated to a wide range of stakeholders to inform reef restoration practice throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Dr James Guest, ERC Research Fellow, Newcastle University School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, leads the project at Newcastle University.

He said: “We are very excited and grateful to receive his funding from CORDAP. CORALADAPT is an ambitious project that builds on work that we’ve carried out over the last five years and aims to estimate coral heat tolerance adaptation for a diversity of reef environments and coral species. Our ultimate goal is to provide the first blueprint for using restoration to build climate resilience in corals. We will work closely with our partners in the Philippines and Palau so that outputs can help shape national restoration policy, but will also communicate our findings widely to inform global reef restoration efforts.”

Coral reefs in one part of the Pacific Ocean have likely adjusted to higher ocean temperatures which could reduce future bleaching impacts of climate change, new research reveals.

Securing a future for all corals

The Coral Research and Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP) has recently awarded $18 million USD to 14 innovative projects across 20 countries through the Coral Accelerator Program (CAP) 2022 call. Award winning projects will be working to help secure a future for all corals and reefs in the face of climate change and other environmental pressures.

CORDAP is a G20 initiative created to fast-track research and development solutions to save the world’s corals and it is the only international organization fully dedicated to funding R&D in this area. A new call for proposals is currently open until 10 November 2023.

Two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost due to human activity and 70-90% of the remaining coral reefs could disappear in the next 10-15 years if no actions are taken. One in four marine species depend on coral reefs and they provide food, income and coastal protection for one billion people. The estimated global economic value of coral reefs is approaching US$10 trillion per year through ecosystem services and goods.

Carlos Duarte, a distinguished Professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Executive Director of CORDAP, added: “Corals are the rainforests of the ocean, yet they are at risk of functional extinction in the next decade without urgent action. For the first time, an entire ecosystem that supports millions of species and people may be lost at the hands of humans.”

“The goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved if we lose coral reefs, which is a real and urgent risk.”

“CORDAP was set up because accelerating research and innovation is our chance to save corals. The window for protecting these ecosystems is rapidly closing. However, the awardees of the inaugural Coral Accelerator Platform have shown that there is still hope.”


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