Responding to a comment on inoculation
by Andrew Baker, Charles Shepard
Inoculation of corals with more heat resistant strains has been talked about for years, and indeed has happened in some experimental aquaria. But what people overlook, in my view, is that there is a bit of a difference between seeing whether it can happen (experimentally) and getting that strain to become dominant over, say, the Seychelles archipelago! [To call it] 'naive' is exactly correct, I am afraid. At least, it is naive for now - if you read science fiction of 50 years ago you will see that we should never say never...Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
But even if such manipulation is possible one day, my worry is that the decline we see now is too rapid for us to reasonably put much store in some technique which may or may not be developed in 10-20 years time. If we look at the temperature curves, then we don't have more than a couple of decades.
...[Where] Baker [says] that 'we should explore whether there are are any actions we can take [to boost the natural adaptive capacity of corals to survive environmental changes]'... then yes, that I do agree with. Certainly we should explore. Urgently in fact.
The biology of symbiosis would suggest that inoculating corals with new strains of zooxanthellae would be a futile waste of money - symbioses don't form easily (analysis suggests switching occurs on a hundred to thousand year time frame). I would wager that even taking the zooxanthellae from the same species in a much warmer sea (assuming that zooxanthellae were the heart of the thermal tolerance and not the coral/zooxanthellae combination!) and trying to inoculate them into colonies of the same species in a colder but rapidly warming sea would simply result in a lack of uptake by the coral. I am afraid focusing solely on ecology without an appreciation of limits of physiology leads people down pathways that essentially involve a lot of wishful thinking.