The race is on to save lots of coral reefs–by freezing them


Hagedorn and her collaborators have been in a position to cryopreserve larvae since 2018, however the course of was finicky, and thawing them required refined lasers to warmth them at a charge of greater than 1,000,000 °C per minute. Now, Hagedorn’s crew has devised and examined a simplified technique. The larvae are dehydrated on a metal mesh, immersed in a cryoprotectant, and plunged into liquid nitrogen. To thaw them, the mesh is put in a room-temperature rehydration resolution. If all goes effectively, the larvae swim off inside two hours. “That’s been a huge advancement,” Hagedorn says. “And what that means is that we can stop the extinction of species, and in a way that’s very user-friendly.” 

There has additionally been progress preserving grownup corals. In August, Powell-Palm, Hagedorn, and others announced that they’d seen cryopreserved grownup specimens survive one or two days earlier than falling prey to micro organism. The course of they used, known as isochoric vitrification, employs a small, confined chamber to stop liquids from increasing into ice. “I always describe it as low tech, high science,” Powell-Palm says. “The thermodynamic processes at play within the chamber are wonderfully complex … but technologically, it’s unbelievably simple.” 

If—and Hagedorn emphasizes the if—isochoric vitrification is perfected, it could be a recreation changer. Rather than requiring researchers to attend for the few nights a 12 months that corals spawn to catch their sperm and larvae, this technique will permit them to gather and cryopreserve corals at any time when it’s handy. Thawed fragments would develop into bigger colonies and in the future spawn as effectively, serving to to restart lifeless or struggling reefs.  

The most intractable drawback, nonetheless, is likely to be time. As excessive temperatures, acidic water, air pollution, and illness batter corals, they could develop too sickly to resist the stresses of cryopreservation. Corals have to be collected as quickly as doable, Hagedorn says, whereas their well being continues to be principally intact. 

At the identical time, she’s planning for a conservation program which will final for many years—even centuries, as a result of the oceans could proceed to heat for a lot of generations, even within the occasion of decisive local weather motion. Hagedorn is investigating the feasibility of storing coral and different animal tissues on completely cool elements of the moon. If some catastrophe had been to befall coral repositories on Earth, samples tucked in lunar lava tubes or shady craters might persist for hundreds of years. 

Allison Guy stories on well being and the atmosphere.


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