According to a 2017 UNESCO study, the majority of coral reefs in World Heritage sites could disappear in 30 years’ time. And by 2100, if no strong action is taken, most reefs will have died. The rainforest of the sea is under constant threat “by human activity both on land and on the sea”, as reported by a 2012 study. As for most environmental issues, the list of causes is long and varied. Climate change is the main culprit, as it brings about rising water temperatures and ocean acidification, both directly causing coral bleaching. Indirectly, they make it easier for coral diseases to spread, and spur outbreaks of coral predators (such as crown-of-thorns starfishes). In addition, pollution, overfishing and coral mining take a massive toll on coral health.
As coral reefs are very important for biodiversity, their disappearance also puts a significant amount of fish species at risk, which in turn has a direct impact on the livelihood of other animals, as well as of millions of people. But not all hope is lost: researchers worldwide are working on a number of solutions to help conserve and repopulate coral reefs. We examined three new breakthrough technologies designed to help rebuild those precious underwater ecosystems.