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Ecosystem Reboot: How scientists are building an inside-out Noah’s Ark for Florida’s vanished coral reefs

Allison Guy

In Florida, a deadly marine plague called stony coral tissue loss disease has inspired an unprecedented conservation plan: to rescue affected corals from the wild, and keep them alive in captivity, indefinitely. The idea was to make a Noah’s Ark turned inside out, evacuating corals from an inhospitable ocean, and raising, breeding and propagating them on land, with the quixotic hope that the reef can one day be rebooted from its backup copy. To do so, Florida’s coral community would need to collect thousands of corals, find places to warehouse their charges, and figure out ways to grow big, genetically diverse captive populations. And with stony coral tissue loss spreading swiftly up and down the state’s coast, they needed to act fast.

This may be the most audacious conservation plan ever attempted — not just to save a species here and there, but to rescue the basis of an entire ecosystem, and to keep it alive through everything the future has in store. And where Florida’s beleaguered reefs go, the rest of the world will follow. Sooner or later, but most likely sooner, corals everywhere will be in need of their own inside-out arks, ferrying them towards some hoped-for future. Improbable as it seems, it just might work.

Written by
Allison Guy
Avatar Written by Allison Guy