Can Yoghurt Save the Great Barrier Reef

Science Times reported on April that the Great Barrier Reef underwent its third major bleaching event in the last five years. The reef experienced back-to-back coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017 that killed almost half the reef’s corals. But bleaching does not necessarily mean that it is already dead, according to Terry Hughes director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. This only means that the coral needs help for it to recover.

Now, the scientists believe that probiotics similar to those found in yoghurt can boost the health of the corals to help it withstand the heat stress.

An international team made the breakthrough of using probiotics to help the Great Barrier Reef soon after it weathered on its third major bleaching in five years.

Probiotics have been widely regarded as a success in improving human and animal health, but this will be the first time that it will be used in marine ecosystems, according to The Courier.

Just like humans, corals rely on good bacteria to help keep them healthy, said Anna Marsden Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. “And, just like us, the balance between good and bad bacteria is often disrupted in times of stress,” she added.

Corals are more prone to infections and less likely to survive if they are exposed to stress-triggered imbalances.

The scientists experimented with the corals by injecting probiotics into them but then decided to feed them instead of their zooplankton prey enriched with probiotic. The plankton absorbs the good bacteria through the water, and the coral then feeds on the plankton. It is like feeding them yoghurt full of good bacteria.

Their experiment resulted in corals surviving to stressful times, protecting them from being bleached.