For the last several decades, scientists have warned the public that coral reefs were in danger, insisting that a major shift in oceans posed a major threat to them.

Their predictions proved to be true in July of this year when South Florida experienced the worst mass bleaching event in recorded history.

With temperatures of over 100 degrees F on the coast, the ocean heated up, causing corals in South Florida and parts of the Caribbean to turn bleach white. This results when corals lose the symbiotic algae that feed them. The reefs then starve to death, turning a pale white as they die.

“The Earth is warming up too quickly, the corals are not able to adapt on their own quickly enough, and they need our help,” University of Miami professor Andrew Baker told us.

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Baker is not alone in recognizing the threat that reefs currently face. He is just one of hundreds of scientists and academics who attended ReeFlorida, a symposium sponsored by Frost Science Museum in early November of this year.

This event was part of the National Coral Reef Conservancy Program, and it brought together many who had followed the bleaching event and were eager to bring it to the public’s attention.

Another attendee, Ian Enochs, the leader of the NOAA AOML Coral Program, thought that there was much to be learned from resiliency of the reefs that survived.

“The fact that they were able to experience so much stress and still be able to live is really quite remarkable. It’s something that we can learn from and try to use to hopefully help replenish some of the other reefs, some of the other corals,” Enochs said.

Along these same lines, some observers were taken by the ability of urban corals found in Port Miami and Government Cut to recover from the bleaching event.

When discussing the resiliency that was observed in urban corals, Michael Studivan of the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab said “The next month, 30 days later, fully recovered. They had all of their color back. They were feeding, death was minimal. So they seem to fare very well.”

Coincidentally, three months before the bleaching event the NOAA published a study based on research from Studivan on the incredible resilience of these corals.

After the event, it became apparent how critical the project of  breeding super corals and transplanting more resilient ones is to the future of corals.

Andrew Baker, who leads such a project at Miami’s Rosenthal School, explained, “There are ways we can build this thermal tolerance and heat stress resistance into the population. We just need some time,” Baker explained.

To this end, The Department of Defense has joined forces with the University of Miami to build hybrid reefs of concrete and coral. The project is estimated at $20 million dollars.

But when one considers the 375 billion dollars of economic goods and services provided by our coral reefs each year this seems like a small price to pay.