The Coral Hospital™-a holistic approach to coral health
Along with several Taiwanese collaborators, we are proposing to confront the current coral reef crisis (amongst other means) by establishing an institute known as the “Coral Hospital™.” It is worth noting right off the bat that this interventional approach probably only lends itself to relatively small colonies (e.g., pocilloporids) that can be readily moved. Taiwan’s National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium possesses the ideal facility for housing such a coral health institute, though we envision that the concept of the Coral Hospital could be extended to other regions with marine animal husbandry facilities in the proximity of coral reef ecosystems.
1. In an analogous manner as in the human hospital, sick corals will first be diagnosed either in situ or in the hospital such that the root cause of illness can be discerned (e.g., disease, bleaching, pollutant stress).
2. The sick corals will then be treated (when necessary) and allowed to convalesce in precisely controlled coral husbandry facilities.
3. Diagnostic data from the sick corals (i.e., the root stressor) will be used to guide environmental remediation schemes aimed at promoting coral resilience at the home reef (if possible/applicable).
4. Upon rehabilitation, the recovered corals will be returned:
A: to their home reef (if this reef was not found to have been degraded) OR
B: if the home reef was degraded, but improves to an appreciable extent during the time the corals are hospitalized (see #3.), these corals could be re-planted there upon rehabilitation OR
C: a site featuring oceanographic conditions favoring a high level of health and growth (as determined by husbandry experiments performed during the convalescence period).
5. Regardless of the site of out-planting, recuperated corals will be monitored over time to determine the sufficiency of treatment in the hospital.
6. In the event that the home reefs degrade to such an extent that environmental mitigation is no longer possible, gametes from the convalescent corals will be collected and cryopreserved such that they may be fertilized, reared in officinarum, and later out-planted once global marine conditions again permit coral survival.
The manuscript describing the details of this project is currently under review in Biopreservation and Biobanking.