SCIENCE

Science has discovered a new way to save coral reefs from climate change

Rising global temperatures also mean rising ocean temperatures, as well as their pollution due to human activity. For years now, it has been observed how water temperatures are slowly killing coral reefs around the world.

The warm water causes the algae that cover the corals, the ones that give them their typical bright colour, to detach. Once the algae have detached, the corals suddenly turn white and then die. Many of the world's coral reefs are now dead and irrecoverable.

Some Italian researchers may now have discovered a new turmeric-based method to save corals from discolouration and thus death.

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The death of coral reefs
Rising global temperatures also mean rising ocean temperatures, as well as their pollution due to human activity. For years now, it has been observed how water temperatures are slowly killing coral reefs around the world. The warm water causes the algae that cover the corals, the ones that give them their typical bright colour, to detach. Once the algae have detached, the corals suddenly turn white and then die. Many of the world's coral reefs are now dead and irretrievable.
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New study on turmeric could open new avenues
Researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology and the University of Milan-Bicocca, in collaboration with the Genoa Aquarium, have published a study in 'Acs Applied Materials and Interfaces' concerning turmeric, which could actually help save coral reefs from destruction and death.
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The bleaching of coral reefs
Rising ocean temperatures cause algae to detach from corals. Algae are the ones that give corals their bright colours, and their detachment causes the death of the entire reef. Unfortunately, to date, say the authors of the study, "there are no effective mitigation interventions to prevent this without endangering the marine habitat surrounding these life-rich but fragile environments".
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Italian research
So, what did the researchers do? They extracted a molecule from turmeric, curcumin, and administered it in a controlled manner by applying a biomaterial based on a protein derived from maize, developed by the researchers themselves to be safe for the environment. The test was performed at the Genoa Aquarium, replicating the 33°C temperatures of tropical seas.
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The results of the research
All corals that had not received curcumin lost their colour, as is now the case in tropical seas. In contrast, those treated with this special molecule remained unaffected and retained their colour.
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Patent application filed, researchers' words
A patent application has been filed for this technology. In the words of the study's first author, Marco Contradi, a researcher at the IIT and Milano-Bicocca University: 'The next step is large-scale application in nature'. Simone Montano, deputy director of the MaRHE Centre (Marine Research and Higher Education Centre), on the other hand, said: "The use of new biodegradable and biocompatible materials capable of releasing natural substances that can reduce coral bleaching is a first; I strongly believe that this innovative approach will represent a significant transformation in the development of strategies for the recovery of marine ecosystems".
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19/04/2024
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