This Accidental Discovery Could Save the World's Coral Reefs

One careless moment might just save the oceans.

Feb 14, 2019

A Florida marine biologist who was about to retire discovered a remarkable breakthrough that makes coral grow 40 times faster than they grow in the wild. And it happened by accident.

Dr. Dave Vaughn, the senior scientist and program manager for coral restoration at Mote Tropical Research Center was working in his lab when he accidentally shattered a piece of coral into a lot of tiny pieces, and to his surprise discovered that instead of dying, as he assumed they would, they began to grow rapidly.

All the pieces of coral regrew to their original size in only three weeks. It would have taken three years in the wild.

The new method was named micro-fragmenting and fusion because the pieces will fuse together to form one large coral. The method is so successful that the researchers are producing coral faster than they can get tanks to hold it. The lab tested this method on all the species of coral found on the Florida Reef, and it worked on all of them.

Corals naturally take 25 to 75 years to reach sexual maturity because they grow very slowly and traditionally, coral restoration can take many years according to Vaughn. "It took us six years to produce 600 corals. Now with micro-fragmentation we can cut and produce 600 corals in one afternoon."

Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor but support 25 percent of marine life. Coral reefs, when properly managed, can yield 15 tons of fish and seafood per square kilometer per year.

After making his discovery, Vaughn said he will delay his retirement until he sees a million coral reefs replanted on the Florida Reef.

Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.