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.
Over four years the Enhanced Corals and Treatments R&D Subprogram will undertake research on:
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.
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.
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.
Dr David Abrego
Dr Inke Vanwonterghem
Prof Cynthia Riginos
Assoc. Professor David Francis
Dr Patrick Laffy
Dr Paul O'Brien
Dr Agnes Le Port
Dr Owain Edwards
Dr Samantha Goyen
Postdoctoral Research Fellow