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Conservation

Super Corals

Bleached Acropora sp. coral in the ocean with small fish swimming above it. - popup
This coral, Acropora sp., was affected by coral reef bleaching and was photographed in 2010 off Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Kevin Lino, NOAA/NMFS/PIFSC/ESD

The Aquarium has launched programs and research to help identify, propagate, and educate the public on super corals and their potential role in coral reef conservation.

While coral reefs take up just one percent of the ocean floor, they support about a quarter of all marine life in the ocean. Conserving coral reefs is a significant priority for ocean health. However, reefs are under threat from the impacts of human activity, including coastal development, destructive fishing practices, and climate change.

Scientists have been studying “super corals” to better understand corals’ response to climate change and develop conservation practices for a warming ocean. Super corals are those that have demonstrated the ability to tolerate or recover from stress and successfully reproduce after a stressor, such as ocean warming. An illustration of super corals is currently on view in the Aquarium’s Pacific Visions art gallery. One of the Infinity Coral exhibits shows colorful super corals surviving among bleached corals.

In December 2018 the Aquarium partnered with the Phoenix Island Protected Area Trust and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to host a workshop on super corals with coral experts from around the world, including representatives from Pacific Island nations.

The workshop’s goals were to discuss the role of climate-resilient corals in the survival of coral reefs, identify potential roles for public aquariums in educating the public on super corals and creating a living bank of super coral specimens for research. It also included drafting a plan for the propagation of super corals and developing an exhibit and live bank at the Aquarium. A report on the workshop’s proceedings and resulting plans is now available.

After the workshop, the Aquarium developed a show on super corals for NOAA’s Science on a Sphere. This show plays in the daily rotation in the Ocean Science Center. See the screens posted outside the Ocean Science Center for show times.

Plans are under way to develop an exhibit on super corals at the Aquarium.