Did you know that over two-thirds of the world’s tropical coral reefs have been lost because of human activity? For the first time, an entire ecosystem that supports millions of species and people may be lost at the hands of humans. The global and local threats to both tropical and deep water corals and reefs add up to a rapidly closing window of opportunity for securing their future. Many of the world’s tropical coral reefs remain resilient, however, and can recover if conditions permit. That’s where coral research comes in.
Corals and reefs are also among the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet to anthropogenic pressures — particularly those pressures influenced by climate change and associated factors. But they also respond to active stewardship. A full spectrum of research, technology development, deployment, and on-the-ground restoration programs can make a big difference.
How many countries have coral reefs within their borders? Tropical coral reefs occur in more than 100 countries.
How much do coral reefs contribute to the US economy? Coral reefs contribute an estimated $2.7 trillion per year in goods and services. That’s because tropical coral reefs underpin the safety, coastal protection, well-being, and food and economic security of hundreds of millions of people.
How is climate change hurting corals? Sea levels are projected to rise between 0.28 m and 1.02 m, depending on the emissions scenario, which will exacerbate coastal flooding and erosion. Vertical reef accretion rates will lag relative to the higher projected rates of sea level rise by the end of the century, resulting in the flooding of coral reefs and reducing their capacity for coastal protection.
What stressors affect coral reefs? Stressors include increased sea surface temperatures that trigger coral bleaching and mass mortality, increased wave energy and storms, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and changing patterns of currents and precipitation, among others. These pressures interact negatively with, and often exacerbate, a slew of local stresses, such as poor water quality, disease and predator outbreaks, invasive species, and overfishing and destructive fishing practices, resulting in widespread coral ecosystem losses.
Coral Research that Emerged from G20 Consensus
The remaining 70% to 90% of tropical coral reefs are likely to decline in the next decades.
Recognizing this crisis, 17 G20 nations agreed in 2020 that it was imperative to secure a future for corals and reefs in the face of climate change and other pressures. They decided the best way to do so was to enhance global coral research for conservation and restoration efforts of tropical coral reefs and deep-water corals.
The result is the Coral Research & Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP). CORDAP is working to accelerate international research and development to supply the technologies and innovations for coral stability.
Methods: By bringing together the best minds worldwide in a transdisciplinary approach, CORDAP will advance the next generation of science and technology needed to improve the survival, conservation, resilience, adaptation, and restoration of both tropical and deep-water corals and reefs.
Vision: To avoid the loss of corals and secure a future for these key marine habitats even in the face of continuing climate change, CORDAP will push to accelerate the delivery of the best science and technology and develop next-generation solutions.
Mission: CORDAP will bring together the best minds worldwide, in a transdisciplinary approach, to accelerate international research and development in an effort to conserve and to supply the technologies and innovations required to secure a future for tropical coral reefs and deep-water corals.
Funding awards: The Coral Accelerator Program (CAP) 2022 will award funds to multinational collaborative teams with impactful ideas that lead to significant discoveries, innovations, and improvements in coral conservation and restoration. After going through the review process, selected projects will receive funding based on the expectation that their proposal will quickly lead to significant discoveries, innovations and improvements in current tropical coral reefs and deep-water corals protection and restoration.
CORDAP encourages teams with ideas and concepts that transcend different disciplines and fields to participate. This includes end users in the research, design, and development of projects. Successful applicants will be awarded funding up to $1.5 million per project, which can last from one to three years.
The deadline for Concept Note Submissions is November 1, 2022, at 17:00 UTC.
Research goals: CORDAP supports and complements existing national, regional, and international initiatives that are currently working on coral conservation, resilience, adaptation, and restoration.
CORDAP is also positioned to create links and foster global efforts, with many collaborative opportunities to build critical mass and accelerate coral research and development. A number of efforts already in place provide a springboard from which CORDAP can build, connect, and learn.
- The Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP) in Australia is a 10-year R&D program for developing new methods to protect, adapt, and restore coral reefs.
- The United States Department of Defense agency DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is establishing Reefense—a program to develop self-healing, hybrid biological and engineered reef-mimicking structures to mitigate the coastal flooding, erosion, and
storm damage that increasingly threatens civilian and US Department of Defense infrastructure and personnel.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine both recognize that coral reef ecosystems are deteriorating globally. The NOAA Action Plan on Coral Interventions will guide coral interventions over the next few years with 4 actions: (1) research and test priority interventions, (2) develop local or regional structured decision support, (3) review policy implications of coral interventions, and (4) invest in infrastructure, research, and coordination.
- The Coral Restoration Consortium (CRC) was formed as a community of practitioners dedicated to using the best science and ingenuity to support the persistence of coral reef ecosystems.
- The United States of America’s National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research RII Track-1: Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) will implement a systematic research agenda incorporating new knowledge of biodiversity, population genetics, genomics, phylogenetics, ecology, microbiology, oceanography, and mathematical modeling to document and predict the taxonomic and functional diversity of reef-builders and associated taxa in a changing environment.
- The United States of America’s Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Draft Open Ocean Restoration Plan 2, developed after more than 770-square miles of deep sea habitat and 4-square miles of mesophotic habitat were injured by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, focuses on the following restoration approaches: 1) Protect and manage mesophotic and deep benthic communities; 2) Place hard-ground substrate and transplant coral.
- The NEOM Shushah Coral Garden Project will build several square kilometers of coral reefs in the northern Red Sea using
advanced restoration techniques, through a partnership between King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) and NEOM.
If you’re interested in learning more about the networking and science connections inherent within coral research, check out CORDAP’s Strategic Plan.
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