Coral reefs aren’t just home to a whole ecosystem of sea life, they also protect nearby land from wave surges – but the 2014 National Climate Assessment reports that reefs are in big trouble. Fortunately, a team of researchers in Hawaii (the state with a majority of the United State’s coral reefs) has a clever plan to save the reefs. Scientists are planning to cross-breed reefs that are better equipped to live in the warmer oceans of tomorrow.

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Dr. Ruth Gates and her team from the University of Hawaii have been collecting coral specimens so that they can be tested in artificially warm or acidic environments. Gates told the Huffington Post: “we can play with ocean chemistry to acidify the water and elevate the temperature to simulate climate change stress.” Once scientists are able to create a stronger reef, that reef could be introduced to existing reefs or used to replace reefs that have already been wiped out.

Related: Solar-Powered Electric Coral Reef Station Stimulates Coral Growth

In reefs that require complete replacement, Gates envisions “planting” coral reef onto a concrete base and essentially farming a reef like you would a field of wheat or corn. Of course, altering the natural environment always has consequences, but Gates notes that this method is more natural because it is essentially just helping the reef to evolve more quickly than it would in nature. In fact, there are other reefs in the ocean that have evolved on their own to survive in the new ocean climate. Only time will tell if the idea will work, but Gates is passionate about preserving the coral reefs that she has studied her entire career.

Via Huffington Post

Lead image via Christian Michel, image via Derek Keats