Innovative approaches, such as selective breeding for adaptive traits combined with large-scale sexual propagation, are being developed with the aim of pre-adapting reefs to increased ocean warming. However, there are still major gaps in our understanding of the technical and methodological constraints to producing corals for such restoration interventions.
We have developed a framework for selectively breeding corals and rearing them from eggs to adult colonies using the coral Acropora digitifera as a model species. A major focus of our research aims to enhance early survivorship of sexually propagated corals in ex situ and in situ nurseries and increase outplant yield and efficiency.
There are still challenges to overcome before selective breeding can be implemented as a viable conservation tool, especially at the post-settlement and outplanting phases, however, our research is addressing these knowledge gaps by developing best practices for rearing and outplanting sexually propagated corals.
Watch here a short video by Ph.D. candidate Eveline van der Steeg explaining the co-culturing method we use to rear sexually reproduced corals in ex situ and in situ nurseries