A mix of Australian and other international researchers are gearing up to set sail later this month on a mission to locate and then propagate “super corals” which are believed to be the best options to survive bleaching caused by climate change. The 21-day expedition will be carried out by the Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a nonprofit group. This is a first of its kind expedition launched for helping Great Barrier Reefs survive climate change. The organization raised funds for the venture from the tourism industry and crowdsourcing.

The expedition will start from Port Douglas on November 15 and will head north towards the Torres Strait. The researchers will examine the areas affected by bleaching because those areas were only touched through aerial surveys. Dean Miller, a marine biologist and GBR Legacy Director, said that this was the section that was most hard hit, with some reefs suffering up to 90 percent coral cover lost.

Neal Cantin, a research scientist, specializing in coral bleaching at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the northern reefs were “a very challenging area to get access to.” Dr. Cantin who is also a part of the voyage said that their main aim to find the ‘super corals’ which are known for their better survival rate in bleaching. The back-to-back bleaching that took place in 2015-16 did not affect those super corals. Cantin told that those colonies definitely have something special to survive such an extreme event.

Along with examining the molecular traits that helped those super corals withstand hot ocean water, the researchers will also collect samples from the upcoming coral spawning and bring them back to AIMS research facility in Townsville for potential breeding. Hayley Morris, an executive director of the Northern Escape Collection- the tourist group which is the main sponsor of the expedition-said that they, along with many people involved in the industry were passionate about coral reef’s future. They are their life. But bleaching really affects those coral reefs. Ms. Morris added that it is quite difficult to get funding in the applied research space.

The Northern Escape collection has donated $160,000 for the voyage and also provided the 32-meter research vessel. Dr. Miller further warned that a third bleaching event has started to show its first signs in Port Douglas. But he is hopeful that this time the bleaching might occur at lower temperatures than the last couple of summers because stringent actions were taken to help coral reefs survive bleaching.

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Martin Turner is an environment activist with broad, deep experience in print and online writing, publication and site management, news coverage, and editorial team management.


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