A dose of good bacteria could prevent Great Barrier Reef corals from bleaching, with an innovative project winning $150,000 AUD ($110,000 USD) to fund research into the concept.
Brazilian scientist Professor Raquel Peixoto’s coral probiotics idea captured the public’s imagination in the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge, securing the most public votes to win the People’s Choice Award.
Laboratory testing by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro researcher has already shown promise for the probiotics preventing bleaching in heat-stressed corals in an aquarium environment.
The new funding will accelerate the research and investigate new science developments and methods to scale up the application for use on coral reefs.
Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) Managing Director Anna Marsden congratulated Raquel on her winning idea.
“The idea of giving probiotics to corals to improve their health is just like people taking probiotic yoghurts full of good bacteria to counter the negative effects of taking antibiotics when they’re treating an infection,” Ms Marsden said.
“In the same way, this research is about giving corals the specific beneficial bacteria they need to boost their resilience in times of stress and help them cope with environmental changes.
“The recent IPCC report has reinforced there is a closing window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change and the sharp threat facing coral reefs globally.
“Our increasingly changing climate underscores the urgent need to fund the next generation of ideas that give our coral reefs a fighting chance and this is exactly what we’re aiming to achieve through this challenge with the support of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and with partners The University of Queensland and SecondMuse.”
Probiotics have been widely and successfully used to improve both human and animal health, however their use in marine ecosystems has been largely unexplored.
This win will allow Prof. Peixoto and her international research team, which includes scientists from the US, UK and James Cook University in Australia, to take native beneficial bacteria already present naturally in the Reef, and use them in a targeted way to increase the resilience of corals.
A range of delivery methods will be explored through the project to identify the best way to introduce these beneficial microorganisms for corals, or BMCs, into the coral’s system.
The People’s Choice winner is the second project to receive funding from the GBRF’s Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge supported by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
The Challenge-winning proposal to restore coral reefs on a grand scale and use a robot to deliver coral babies on to the Reef will launch on the Great Barrier Reef in late November / early December during the annual mass coral spawning when corals reproduce simultaneously in spectacular fashion.
The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Chairman and President, Anisa Kamadoli Costa said, “As part of our support for ocean conservation efforts, we were so pleased to see the Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge kickstart and accelerate novel solutions from around the world to bolster the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term resilience.”
“The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has supported coral conservation worldwide for nearly two decades and we are thrilled to be supporting new ideas to conserve coral reefs—innovators such as the Challenge and People’s Choice winners are a reason for hope to preserve these precious ecosystems for future generations.”
The Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge attracted 63 submissions from 15 countries spanning the categories of finance, technology and people.
The Tiffany & Co. Foundation’s support for the Challenge was made possible through a grant to The University of Queensland in America Inc.
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