coral Zoological Society of London creates worlds first coral cryobankThe Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has announced their plans to create a cryobank for corals. Corals will be collected from tropical areas and placed in liquid nitrogen at the Whipsnade zoo in Bedfordshire.

Carbon dioxide emissions are rising fast and are already above the safe level for corals,” said Dr Alex Rogers, head of marine biodiversity at the ZSL. “Some reefs are already beginning to fail and many will die within a few decades. We need a plan B, and freezing them is the best option.”

The idea of creating a coral cryobank stems from similar projects concerning seeds, such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault where seeds from all over the world are preserved inside a cool cavern on Spitsbergen, north of mainland Norway.

Storing coral for prolonged periods of time without killing them was made possible quite recently thanks to a new method developed by researcher Craig Downs of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory.

We can take 1mm-2mm biopsies from coral, freeze them at -200C and thaw them out to regenerate back into a polyp,” says Downs, who is now working with the ZSL. “We are proposing to do this for every species of coral on the planet.”

Roughly 3,350 cold-water corals and about 1,800 tropical coral species are currently know to science. Downs proposes keeping 1,000 samples of each at the zoo.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington is now discussing setting up their own coral sample facility to alleviate the risks of having just one coral sample storage in the world.

Charlie Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said he supported the efforts but warned it was no consolation for the eradication of reefs. According to Veron, endeavours such as cryobanks, genetic make-up preservation, and coral aquariums aren’t meaningful.

These are not solutions,” says Veron. Because Australia is home to the biggest coral reef in the world, it should concentrate all its efforts into helping the Great Barrier Reef survive. Personally, I feel it’s no compensation to know that the genetic information of corals is kept in machines.”