Innovation That Matters

Heat causes coral to expel the algae that it needs for food in order to survive. | Photo source Petr Sidorov on Unsplash

Bacteria could protect coral from heat stress

Science

The application of bacteria to coral helps reefs withstand increases in water temperature, which could be applied in advance of a heat wave

Spotted: With several recent research papers warning of the possibility of catastrophic climate changes occurring in the near future, scientists and innovators are working faster than ever. Teams are working to find, build and deploy solutions that will help keep the world’s temperature increase at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius.  

Microbial biologist Raquel Peixoto, from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, led a promising study into the application of bacteria to coral that helps reefs withstand increases in water temperature. Experts predict that only around 30 per cent of the world’s coral will be alive at the end of the next decade and that the number could be in the single digits in worst-case scenarios. 

Heat causes coral to expel the algae that it needs for food in order to survive. In the lab, all of the coral fragments that received the probiotic treatment lived through a simulated heatwave, whereas 40 per cent of the untreated pieces died. As well as preventing death, the healthy microbes appear to lessen post-heat stress disorder in coral. That then helps algae find new homes as they seek the healthiest, least stressed pieces of coral upon which to settle.  

The team is currently considering different ways to deliver the bacteria to at-risk reefs, and will shortly begin studies in the wild in the Red Sea.  

From coral donor tissue to a smart transport system for corals grown in a lab, Springwise is spotting an increasing number of innovations focused on saving these incredible ecosystems.  

Written By: Keely Khoury

Explore more: Sustainability

Email: media@kaust.edu.sa

Website: kaust.edu.sa/en

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