Assisted evolution is the use of human interventions to speed up the natural evolutionary process. Used effectively, it could potentially allow coral species to adapt faster than they would if left unaided, allowing reefs and corals to keep pace with the environmental changes and ocean warming due to climate change.
Globally, substantial investment in R&D is needed to enable rapid adaptation of reefs to climate change by identifying and propagating heat-tolerant corals. Diverse methods are under consideration, but the efficacy and scalability of such interventions in natural populations remains largely unknown.
Because there is still much to be learnt about the potential impacts of such interventions, it is vital that scientists working in this field integrate fundamental knowledge of evolution and adaptation to evaluate the costs and benefits of enhanced coral adaptation methods.
The rates and dynamics of natural evolutionary adaptation in wild populations at ecologically-relevant time scales are poorly understood, especially during periods of environmental change. Research around this area will also greatly help improve current projections of climate change impacts on coral reefs that guide reef management and investment into conservation and restoration plans.
- Document the current state of knowledge around key topics in natural and assisted evolution in marine systems with a focus on coral reefs in a database.
- Identify knowledge gaps and barriers for embedding assisted adaptation in conventional and resilience-based management applications.
- Develop a roadmap, giving recommendations on how best to prioritise assisted adaptation in future R&D investment.
These objectives, including conclusions and recommendations, will be presented in a report in March and a scientific paper in June 2023.
- Massey University
- Arizona State University
- University of Miami
- Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB)
- University of Mauritius
- Newcastle University
- McGill University
- University of Southern California
- Penn State University
- IPB University
- University of Queensland
- University of the Philippines
- University of Amsterdam
- University of Melbourne
- University of Konstanz
- Exeter University