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First for Ningaloo Reef as scientists cross-breed coral to produce climate-resilient offspring

Jamie ThannooMidwest Times
A scuba diver inspects coral. In an effort to study how the Ningaloo can prepare for climate change, scientists have cross-bred local coral to produce offspring better able to handle high temperatures.
Camera IconA scuba diver inspects coral. In an effort to study how the Ningaloo can prepare for climate change, scientists have cross-bred local coral to produce offspring better able to handle high temperatures. Credit: Carly Keech

Scientists say they have pulled of a first for the Ningaloo Reef by cross-breeding local corals in an effort to prepare local reefs for climate change.

Ten scientists from the Minderoo Foundation program collected coral during the annual mass spawning event in March, and cross-bred them to see which larvae were best able to handle high temperatures.

“Essentially we selected tough mom corals and tough dad corals in order to try and produce tough baby corals that can survive under warming temperatures,” primary researcher Dr Kate Quigley said.

Climate change has led to rising ocean temperatures, threatening coral which need to live in very specific conditions.

In 2011, the Ningaloo was hit by a large-scale bleaching event, which Dr Quigley said would be become more common with climate change.

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She said while these studies could help protect the Ningaloo coast by building more resilient ecosystems across thousands of kilometres, they will only “buy time” and the underlying causes of climate change will still need to be addressed.

“At some point, the natural capacity of corals to withstand temperatures will run out. So this is no silver bullet, we really need to get climate change under control,” Dr Quigley said.

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