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Coral Comeback: What Can We Do?

6 minutes

(Describer) Under a round logo of a wave, title: Ocean Today.

(female narrator) Corals are in trouble.

(Describer) Doctor Ruth Gates:

(woman) We are in a critical situation with our reefs. And if we fail to act, if we get paralyzed by the enormity of the problem, the majority of the world's reefs will be gone by 2050.

(narrator) But scientists and conservation programs are not standing idle. If we come up over here-- zoom in...

(Describer) In a meeting, a man points at satellite maps. Doctor C. Mark Eakin:

(man) The NOAA Core Reef Conservation program is helping to monitor these important ecosystems to see how much damage is going on. We're also trying to help reduce the stresses to the coral reefs in these areas. Some places have done things like-- say an area is so damaged, we don't want divers there.

(Describer) Jennifer Koss:

(woman) We work with communities to ensure land-based pollution doesn't get onto reefs. We work a lot with fisheries' folks to make sure their fisheries on reefs are sustainable.

(Describer) A diver jumps from a boat.

We're working with scientists from many academic institutions to grow more corals in coral nurseries so we can plant those corals on the reef to accelerate recovery of those corals.

(Describer) Divers check coral pieces hanging from lines.

(narrator) Over the last decade, the Coral Reef Conservation program has transplanted tens of thousands of coral fragments to reefs in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and many global programs are doing the same. There may be a way to help enhance populations of existing corals: grow super corals.

(Describer) Pieces grow in a tank in a lab.

Dr. Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, is one scientist making strides in selecting corals they think can better deal with bleaching.

(Gates) When we look at how corals bleach, we see individuals in the same species side by side on the reef, one of which remains dark through the event that's causing the other to go white and die. We see different species that respond differently. We see whole reefs doing better than other reefs. The question is why?

(Describer) Someone walks to a lab building.

We know there are three things that dictate the outcome of a stress event: who they partner with-- are they with the right type of microalgae?; who their parents were-- their base genetics; and what their environmental history has been. If they have survived a bleaching event in the past, they are more likely to survive a new event.

(Describer) A small piece of coral is placed in water.

Through the last two bleaching events in Hawaii, we were able to mark hundreds of coral colonies on the reef that didn't bleach. These are our super athletes of the reef. We bring them into the lab, we train them in our environmental treadmills, we give them the best nutrition, and they have offspring that are super corals. They're super corals because they can potentially face the future that will be warmer and more acidic and survive it.

(narrator) This research is promising, but super corals alone won't solve this global crisis. Reducing the causes of climate change may be the only way to help corals worldwide make a comeback. You can help at home no matter where you live.

(Describer) Koss:

(Koss) Actions to reduce your carbon footprint will ultimately help corals. That means maybe shifting to a hybrid car, changing out your light bulbs to be energy efficient, for short distances, ride your bike, don't drive. We should be thinking about renewable sources of energy like more solar, more wind-- things we're already doing, but ramping those activities up a whole lot more.

(Describer) Blades turn on wind turbines. Gates:

(Gates) Why should somebody in Wisconsin care? Much of their oxygen comes off the coral reef. So what we're looking for are young people to ensure that we have coral reefs in the future, to ensure we never get to a space where the only place we see a coral reef is in an aquarium. If we can collectively get together to stop what is so easy to stop-- the pollution of the coastal waters where coral reefs live, stop boaters anchoring their boats on the coral reef, sustain and stabilize the reef that we have today, starting now-- coral reefs will make a comeback. We just have to do it quickly.

(Describer) Underwater in an ocean, various plants grow around branches of corals.

(Describer) Titles: Executive Producer: Kurt Mann. Producer/Editor: Jesse Achtenberg. Narrator: Lori Berman. Logos are shown for the Smithsonian and NOAA. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Learn about some of the bold and brilliant ideas researchers and conservationists have to rescue corals and coral reefs from disaster. Part of the "Coral Comeback" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

Coral Comeback
Episode 1
2 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 4
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 5
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 6
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 7
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 8
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Coral Comeback
Episode 9
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12