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Researchers Look to Gene Editing to Help Save One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
The continual and relentless rise of global temperatures is threatening coral reefs around the world. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – the largest in the world – has been particularly affected, losing more than half of its coral to a string of marine heat waves.
Traditionally, coral conservation has focused on minimizing the negative impact of external factors like water pollution, invasive marine species, overfishing and tourism, but, with a shrinking timeline, researchers are now taking a new approach: altering the genetic makeup of the coral itself.
Led by Madeleine van Oppen, a coral geneticist, and Ruth Gates, a renowned coral biologist and conservation advocate who passed away in 2018, researchers in Australia have embraced a range of breeding methods in an attempt to develop varieties of coral that can withstand underwater heat waves.
By utilizing all of the knowledge and resources available to them, from traditional cross breeding methods, which have been around since the domestication of plants, to gene editing, the latest and most innovative of methods, researchers hope to save one of the seven natural wonders of the world from impending destruction.