Assisted evolution research in the National Sea Simulator, AIMS. Photo: Marie Roman
Coral adaptation to the impacts of climate change – including increasing average water temperatures and more frequent and extreme heatwaves – will be critical to sustaining functional reefs into the future. It is not known how fast coral populations can naturally evolve and thus whether they can keep pace with the changing environment.
Research has found corals have substantial capacity to increase their growth rates and heat tolerance through methods such as selective breeding, manipulating their microbiomes or hardening treatments. Further research is required to determine the full scope for enhancement and any associated trade-offs.
This R&D subprogram aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the drivers of performance in natural populations and the scope for enhancement through field studies, acute and long-term experiments, and selective breeding programs. This will be supported by strong collaboration with the Coral Aquaculture and Deployment, EcoRRAP, Moving Corals and the Modelling and Decision-Support Subprograms.
Over four years the Enhanced Corals and Treatments R&D Subprogram will undertake research on:
The research is planned to be delivered in three phases over 10 years.
Phase A will run for two to four years and focus on critical milestones with a focus on performance confirmation and cost breakthrough R&D.
Phase B will consolidate efforts on delivering larger-scale field trials and generalisable patterns.
Phase C will deliver the knowledge for implementation including regional-scale field trials.
Coral hardening research in the National Sea Simulator, AIMS. Photo: Christian Miller
This project is providing essential data and information on where and how to identify temperature tolerant corals within and among reefs. This project will apply whole-genome sequencing, outlier and association analyses to uncover links between specific host genome regions, symbiont community characteristics and heat tolerance phenotypes from corals across the Reef.
Budget: $2.0 million ($1.3 million RTP)
This project progresses ideas designed to enhance heat tolerance of corals, which would be operationalised via aquaculture processes, including crossbreeding of warm-adapted corals, genome sequencing of cross-bred corals, development of algal symbionts that enhance heat tolerance.
Budget: $6.5 million ($4.3 million RTP)
This project will assess the feasibility of using probiotics to enhance desired traits such as growth and survival in corals. Additionally, the project will develop treatments comprising a reliable suite of probiotics to enhance coral health and microbial inducers to promote settlement of a diversity of coral species, required to underpin aquaculture based coral propagation at scale.
Budget: $4.9 million ($3.2 million RTP)