Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Living Coral Biobank

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As coral reefs worldwide decline due to climate change, severe storm events and coral disease, Australian non-profit organisation GBR Legacy, with partners Corals of the World and Cairns Marine, will safeguard the biodiversity of all known hard coral species by creating the worlds first Living Coral Biobank Project.

Great Barrier Reef Legacy is an innovative leader in collaborative coral reef research expeditions, education, stewardship and multi-media engagement. An Australian not-for-profit social enterprise, Great Barrier Reef Legacy was created to address the urgent need to secure the long-term survival of the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs world-wide. Legacy builds on the experience and models of Undersea Explorer and Eye to Eye Marine Encounters – delivering marine research and tourism expeditions, innovative citizen science, outstanding wildlife encounters and world-class documentaries.

Corals are one of the few groups of organisms on earth that can be kept alive indefinitely because most form colonies that keep growing for thousands of years. Corals of the World Director and project partner, the “godfather of coral” Dr Charlie Veron, is key to the success of the project as he is one of few people worldwide that can identify corals to species level underwater.

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Industry project partner Cairns Marine is a world leader in successfully collecting, transporting and keeping corals alive in aquaria for over 40 years and will be responsible for maintaining the living coral collection. The Project will also use public aquariums and home aquarium collectors to hold and maintain backup fragments all over the world, creating the largest collaborative preservation network of corals.

The establishment of a coral biobank does not detract from, but only highlights the urgent need, to accelerate actions to reduce the effects of climate change and to reduce local impacts on coral reefs. It is an additional and now very necessary safeguard.

This project is working closely with traditional owners in Cairns and Port Douglas and will reach out to all 72 clan groups along the Great Barrier Reef to invite collaboration. It will also bring together leading scientists, Reef managers, industry experts, community partners and the general public and act as a catalyst to implement a simple and innovative solution to one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues which has direct links to human induced climate change.

Currently, the Living Coral Biobank Project is receiving seed funding by an anonymous Dutch Foundation, and is supported by the Douglas Shire Council which is actively seeking a prime land parcel for the facility.

“My entire professional career has been dedicated to collecting and identifying the world’s coral species. I’ve done this many times for science; this time I’m doing it for the coral’s very survival. Without question this is the most important project we can be undertaking for corals and coral reefs and the most important project I have been involved with personally.”

“The Living Coral Biobank Project is the perfect solution for maintaining the genetic diversity of both corals and their symbionts. That is what makes this project so critically important and unique.” – Dr Charlie Veron, Director and project partner, Corals of the World

“The marine aquarium trade has pioneered coral husbandry over many decades to the point where they are now teaching scientists how to best keep corals alive. The technology and methods to maintain a Living Coral Biobank are well established meaning we can start this project immediately.” – Lyle Squire Director and CEO, Cairns Marine

“The idea of housing coral species from around the world at a leading edge holding facility in Port Douglas is a really exciting prospect.” … “We are a time where understanding the impact of climate change on our precious reefs is more important than ever and Council is keen to support GBR Legacy in their mission to establish the facility.” – Julia Leu, Mayor, Douglas Shire

“Our plan is to collect and keep alive all hard coral species from around the world in a state of the art holding facility in Port Douglas in a type of ‘coral ark’ to maintain the living biodiversity of corals and their algal and bacterial symbionts before it’s too late.”

Dr Miller says “We invite everyone to be involved, collaborate and help fund this Project, especially Australians. The future of the Great Barrier Reef and world’s corals is at stake. We must act now as over 25% of ocean life, and billions of people each and every day, depend on coral reefs for their very survival.” – Dr Dean Miller, Managing Director, GBR Legacy and Project Coordinator