Should We Hold Out Hope for Coral Reefs?

Earlier this year, an "obituary" for the Great Barrier Reef was shared widely online. This think piece left many conservationists and hopefuls with a major, looming question—can anything be done to help coral reefs?

Published December 20, 2016

There are many serious issues facing these fragile ecosystems. Human activity, disease and damage related to climate change are causing many reefs to rapidly disappear—the Great Barrier Reef notable among them.


For those of us who care about preserving these critical ocean habitats, it’s hard to remain positive. That said, a lot of innovative work is being done in the field of reef conservation. Here are a few hopeful stories: 

  • In Australia, thousands of citizen scientists are teaming up with experts to catalogue and study the extent of coral bleaching. Members of the public learn how to take pictures of coral and count fish, and then relay their data to scientists. The data collected by citizen scientists not only helps researchers monitor bleaching, but also study possible solutions to mitigate the problem

  • Reefs in protected areas across the globe are bouncing back. A reef system in the Phoenix Islands archipelago (near Hawaii) is on the mend after being declared "dead" by scientists in 2003. After shipping and tourism activities were limited in the area, the reef system began to show signs of revival. According to an interpretation of this news from a research scientist to The New York Times, "If Coral Castles can continue to revive after years of apparent lifelessness, even as water temperatures rise, there might be hope for other reefs with similar damage.

  • Scientists are finding new ways to engineer coral reefs to safeguard our oceans using 3D printing technology. The artificial corals are printed in the same shape, texture and even chemical makeup of natural corals, which helps coral polyps adhere to the replicas as if they are the real thing! Learn more about this project here.

Want to get your coral reef fix? Tune into our Pacific Coral Reef live feed here.

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