Acidification of Coral reefs: proposal

TRACC is developing proposals (partners wanted) to create solutions to the acidification of coral reefs by climate change. We will take what is known from reef resilience to pH change and experimental coral planting methods around the world and to proactively prepare the groundwork for adaption strategies to identify and grow coral species capable of mitigating the impacts of increasing levels of Carbon Dioxide on the global ocean. The joint perspective, will also be studied where the combined effects of two or more stressors acting at the same time are investigated. The coral nursery resource developed will enable detailed laboratory studies and field experiments and encourage cross-disciplinary and international cooperative partnerships.

The scale of the problem is global and it will require significant funds (full GEF grant or a full Adaptation fund grant) to bring enough researchers together to be able to tackle ocean acidification. An important part of this strategic plan is to develop proposals for a major grant or other sources of funding to promote adaptations by reefs. To help a wide range of reef organisms adapt to changing pH in the sea it will be necessary to work with DNA and genes to select sub-populations that are better able to synthesize the reef building blocks in a more acid environment. The appropriate coral species, once identified, could then be looked at more closely in terms of their genetic make-up and genetic modification employed to increase resistance to acid conditions should that be seen as feasible.

The proactive component of this strategic proposal will start the selection of reef sub populations of resilient species by developing a large number of farm raised reef species which can be cultured as distinct sub-populations (reference coral nursery collection). Ecological analysis of food webs suggests that a biodiverse reef is better able to adapt to stress than a depaurate reef with many fewer links in the food web. It is evident from food web studies that as much reef biodiversity needs to be protected as possible so the initial strategic proposal will work in the coral triangle: (the coral triangle has the maximum number of coral species in the world). As large a number of carbonate dependant coral species as possible will be cultured in the reference coral nursery collection. The location of Semporna is unique because it lies within the coral triangle and also within the Western Pacific warm pool whose corals suffer less from temperature induced bleaching.

This proposal will work with the Kalapuan island community and the Sabah Fisheries Dept. to create an improved reef to increase larval settlement and to encourage reef recovery. The repaired reef will be designed as a reference coral nursery collection over large areas of currently denuded- rubble field – reef. The critical factor for fish stock recovery is a rugose and varied reef – the nursery will provide both a larval settlement area for reef recovery and a planted reef which will be useful for climate change resarch in the future.

An application for a Temporary Occupancy Lease for an area of seabed for a large coral nursery area is currently being considered by the Sabah Government. A wide range of genetic variants for each coral species will be achieved by collecting coral fragments from a wide range of different reefs with different environmental characteristics. These genetic variants will then be cultured in the nursery so that when they have grown, a supply of pure strains of many different coral populations will be available to the researchers working on the DNA and skeletal carbonate synthesis mechanisms in corals.

This strategic proposal will expand current experimental reef recovery techniques to a pilot phase area and develop techniques which promote adaptations by reefs to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. Ask for more information: info(at)

Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC), Coral Conservation. Proposal.


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