HONOLULU, Aug. 18 (UPI) — Scientists say they have established the first frozen bank for Hawaiian corals to save them from extinction and preserve their diversity in the islands.
Researchers at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, along with scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, are banking the frozen coral cells at a laboratory at the university’s facilities on Coconut Island in Kanoe Bay, Oahu, a school release said Wednesday.
In Hawaii, pollution and sedimentation from poor land-use practices, nutrient run-off from farms and waste-treatment plants, and destructive practices such as dynamite fishing and trawling affect reefs, researchers say.
The refrigeration effort is vital to the future health of local corals, scientists say.
“Because frozen banked cells are viable, the frozen material can be thawed one, 50 or, in theory, even 1,000 years from now to restore a species or population,” Mary Hagedorn, a research scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said. “In fact, some of the frozen sperm samples have already been thawed and used to fertilize coral eggs to produce developing coral larvae.”
Over time, coral larvae from the bank could be placed back into ecosystems to infuse new genes and vigor into natural populations, thereby enhancing the health and viability of wild stocks, scientists say.
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