Reproductive Sciences in Animal Conservation - Cryopreservation as a Tool for Reef Restoration: 2019
Throughout the world coral reefs are being degraded at unprecedented rates. Locally, reefs are damaged by pollution, nutrient overload and sedimentation from out-dated land-use, fishing and mining practices. Globally, increased greenhouse gases are warming and acidifying oceans, making corals more susceptible to stress, bleaching and newly emerging diseases. The coupling of climate change impacts and local anthropogenic stressors has caused a widespread and well-recognized reef crisis. While the establishment and enforcement of marine protected areas and preventing the acceleration of climate change are essential to management of these stressors, the inexorable impacts of climate change will continue to cause declines in genetic diversity and population viability. Gamete cryopreservation has already acted as an effective insurance policy to maintain the genetic diversity of many wildlife species, and has now begun to be explored and applied to coral conservation. Cryopreservation can act to preserve reef biodiversity and genetic diversity. To date, we have had a great deal of success with cryopreserving sperm from ~30 coral species of coral species. Moreover, we are creating the basic science to freeze and thaw coral larvae that can soon be used to help secure and restore reefs. Building on these successes, we have established genetic banks using frozen samples and use those samples to help mitigate threats to the Great Barrier Reef and other areas.