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Probiotics proven to boost coral survival

Probiotics proven to boost coral survival

In a scientific breakthrough for the Reef, researchers have proven that feeding coral good bacteria increases their ability to survive the stresses related to climate change such as rising water temperatures.

Innovative scientific techniques such as this provide hope for the future of the Great Barrier Reef, which has suffered three mass bleaching events in just five years due to the impacts of climate change.

Why probiotics?

Just like humans, 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.

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.

Coral reefs are critical ecosystems that are essential to the future of our planet. However, we are increasingly seeing corals becoming stressed due to threats such as rising water temperatures, which makes them prone to infections, bleaching and death. 

Lead author and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology marine scientist Dr. Raquel Peixoto and her international research collaborators have been able to prove for the first time, in a laboratory setting, that feeding corals beneficial probiotics increases their overall health and improves their chance of survival during heat stress.

This research project won the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge People’s Choice Award, supported by The Tiffany & Co. Foundation.

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has supported ocean conservation efforts for two decades and it is pleasing to see past recipients of the award continuing to pioneer novel solutions to the threats facing coral reefs.

What’s next?

Now, through the Foundation's partnership with the Australian Government's Reef Trust, we're building on probiotics research through the world’s most ambitious Reef restoration and adaptation effort – the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program. This is the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to develop, scale-up and deploy known and radically new solutions to buy time for coral reefs. 

With our research partners, we’ll be investigating solutions such as which probiotics work best for the specific coral species found on our Great Barrier Reef and how these probiotics can be used to help boost the health of corals reared on land for reef restoration projects. 

Your help is needed 

A gift today can help us find new ways to protect the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs around the world. Your support will help fund critical projects like this that build the resilience of corals and help them adapt to the impacts of climate change and other threats. 

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You can read more about this research in Science Advances, August 2021 issue here.