Only 20 percent of coral reefs are in good condition. How can ecosystems be better protected? Innovative approaches with so-called super corals are also under discussion.

At the start of the 15th World Coral Reef Conference in Bremen, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) warned of a loss of special ecosystems. At the opening, the minister said that she expects science to make clear demands on politicians so that they can make binding decisions on protective measures.

Innovative solutions

At the invitation of the University of Bremen, around 1000 scientists from more than 80 countries will exchange views on coral reefs that are threatened worldwide. It is also about innovative solutions how these can be stabilized and protected. According to the University of Bremen, 80 percent of all coral reefs are badly damaged or massively threatened. Prince Albert II of Monaco, whose foundation is committed to protecting the environment, also attended the opening of the conference, which was held for the first time in Europe.

“Coral reefs are particularly affected by the climate crisis,” said Minister Lemke. Should the earth warm up by two degrees, the reefs would be lost entirely. That is why the industrialized countries in particular are called upon to promote climate protection. In addition, however, overexploitation, overfishing and pollution in the world’s oceans must also be reduced.

Assisted Evolution

An innovative method to reforest coral reefs more quickly is assisted evolution, said Professor Christian Wild, who organized the conference with his team. With their help, the corals are helped to adapt more quickly to changing environmental conditions. A position paper published in 2021 stated that the goal was to breed particularly heat-resistant super corals. They can endure water temperatures of up to 34 degrees – coral bleaching usually starts at 29 degrees.

Professor Wild clarified that coral reefs are extremely recoverable. “You can restore reefs in a matter of weeks and months,” he said. But how sustainable this is is another question. “All the measures are of no use if we don’t get climate change under control.”