Florida Aquarium in Tampa has spawned endangered coral

I am fond of saying there is a technological solution for everything, but this technological solution to an environmental problem is especially cool:

Scientific history is being made at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa as endangered Atlantic pillar coral have spawned for the first time ever, in a lab setting….

Generating a spawn has never been done for corals native to the Atlantic, so the system was set up to see if it could work. According to Germann, many coral experts even doubted that the aquarium’s efforts would produce successful results.

The team started working on the research in 2014 with the Staghorn coral, but then the focus shifted to pillar coral because of a disease that has been devastating to the Florida Reef Tract. Pillar coral are now classified as almost extinct since the remaining male and female clusters are too far apart to reproduce.

“It’s quite possible that we just had our last wild spawning of pillar coral this year due to the Stoney Coral Tissue Loss Disease,” the aquarium’s coral expert Keri O’Neill said. “But with the success of this project, as a scientist, I now know that every year for the foreseeable future we can spawn Florida pillar corals in the laboratory and continue our work trying to rebuild the population.

According to the aquarium, the coral greenhouses use advanced LED technology and computer-control systems to mimic the natural environment of the coral to subtly signal the corals to reproduce. They spent months mimicking the natural environment of corals using advanced technology to reproduce the timing of sunrises, sunsets, moonrises and moonsets to trigger the animals to spawn.

The spawning now shows that genetic diversity and resilience are possible, and it will help keep the ecosystems, as well as Florida’s tourist economy, intact.

This project is a “head start” program for coral. The Aquarium will raise the juvenile corals long enough to give them a better chance of survival than they would have had as larvae in the ocean.

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