Restoring Marine ecosystems via a Coral Sperm Bank
Dr. Hadedorn from Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island attempts to create a sperm bank for corals. These corals are from around the world – the Caribbean Islands and Australia. Dr. Hagedorn currently has approximately one trillion coral sperm, which can fertilize 500 million to 1 billion eggs. She also collects frozen embryonic cells (already fertilized) which can be compared to stem cells because they are able to grow into adults.
She believes that having a sperm bank will allow restoration and rebuilding of damaged coral reefs ecosystems. She adds that although corals can reproduce asexually, reproducing sexually will allow for genetic variation. Variation is important due to climate change warming the ocean; species will be less resistance to disease.
The importance of this bank is vital to restoration of oceans. In the Pacific ocean, in the last 30 years, corals have decreased by nearly half the abundance. Similarly, in the Caribbean, almost 80% of corals have died due to overfishing, higher temperature, disease. She predicts that if restoration doesn’t begin, corals will be extinct by 2050.
Her research presents challenges such as funding, not enough known information about different types of corals, their mating habits and disease. Timing is also key – collection of sperm has to be done whilst the specie still exist in abundance. However, for many marine biologists, and ecologists, her work represents a source of inspiration.