Safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef

Safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef

Time is running out to save the greatest coral reef system in the world – the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine ecosystem and play an important protective role for coastlines around the world, yet are being devastated by local and global threats, at times with irreversible damage.

A bold and innovative approach

Taronga as a global leader
Taronga as a global leader

Cryopreservation (low-temperature storage) is one of the most effective methods to secure genetic material.

Taronga is a global leader in cryopreservation technology and operates two secure CryoDiversity Banks - one at each of its zoos. In fact, Taronga holds the largest bank of frozen coral sperm cells anywhere in the world. 

The Taronga CryoDiversity Bank houses trillions of cells from 29 species of coral, representing the northern, central and southern regions of the GBR.

Progressing science and saving the reef

By supporting this work you are helping Taronga to fill crucial knowledge gaps including what makes a coral more resilient to climate change and optimal timings and conditions to transplant coral spawned from thawed sperm back into the reef – ultimately ensuring we have genetically diverse coral cells for use in the repair and preservation of the GBR.

Annual spawning collection

Once a year since 2011, timed to the full moon, Taronga scientists head to the GBR for the mass coral spawning event to collect coral reproductive cells. Working with our partners, we bank as much as possible, with each trip targeting a variety of resilient hard-coral species from different parts of the reef. 

During six spawning nights in December 2020, Taronga’s scientists banked: 

  • Samples from 45 individual colonies of 9 different species
  • Of those, 22 colonies from 3 species were from a previously unsampled region of the northern Great Barrier Reef which had survived the bleaching events in the summers of 2016 and 2017
  • Samples from 3 additional species were added to the bank

Why cryopreservation?

This technique can maintain living cells and tissues in a frozen state, indefinitely. For the first time Taronga scientists have been able to demonstrate that frozen coral sperm can successfully be thawed to fertilise corals from different regions of the reef, showcasing the potential for cryopreservation technologies to assist coral reef restoration.

Cryopreserved genetic material can support reef restoration programs and particularly research aimed at improving the ability of coral to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Thank you for supporting innovative conservation research.

Donate online now or call 1300 369 116

All donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible for Australian residents.