Probiotics could help corals fend off the effects of climate change
While everything must be done to ensure they are healthy in the first place, feeding friendly bacteria to coral reefs can increase their overall health and tolerance to stresses that are killing marine ecosystems, according to new research. These include rising sea temperatures and toxic chemicals from consumer products like suncreams and cosmetics.
A team of international scientists made the discovery at the world’s largest artificial ocean, known as The Biosphere 2 in Arizona, and in laboratories in Hawaii. The researchers fed the corals with beneficial microorganisms, the equivalent to feeding them probiotic yoghurt full of good bacteria, and found time and time again the corals that had received the probiotics were in better health than those that had not.
Probiotics have been widely and successfully used to improve both human and animal health, however their use in marine ecosystems has been largely unexplored until now. A solution to reef health is vital as they become increasingly stressed due to threats such as rising water temperatures, causing corals to become prone to infections and less likely to survive.
The Great Barrier reef has suffered several mass bleaching events including one in 2016 that wiped out nearly a third of all corals in the reef. Rising sea temperatures and toxic chemicals force coral to expel the colourful algae inside them which provide most of their energy.
“People may be surprised to find out that just like us, corals rely on a host of good bacteria to help keep them healthy and, just like us, the balance between good and bad bacteria is often disrupted in times of stress,” said Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden.
“Pioneering science such as this provides hope for the future of the Great Barrier Reef that is already seeing the effects of climate change with our precious icon weathering its third mass bleaching in just five years,” she added.
Not only are coral reefs home to 25% of the ocean’s marine life but they also support the livelihoods of 1 billion people globally.
Firstly, countries must stop burning fossil fuels that emit climate destructive gases. Climate change is causing coral reefs to die at an alarming rate. Secondly, consumers must detox their lives and buy products which do not contain chemicals that are harmful to human and marine health.
If your government is still subsidising fossil fuels, if it is being propped up by the fossil fuel lobbies, if it is still investing in overseas fossil fuel projects, do not vote for them and demand action while they are in office. Hold them to account. If they have ratified the Paris Agreement, they may be in direct contravention of its rules.
You can also make powerful consumer choices. Combined with many, they can change the systems as we know it so don’t doubt that you can change things for the better. Every choice we make counts – for, or against, the planet’s future.