Genetics is also becoming a larger area of coral research, giving scientists hope they might one day restore reefs with more heat tolerant coral.
Despite their importance, warming waters, pollution, ocean acidification, overfishing, and physical destruction are killing coral reefs around the world.
An estimated 4,000 fish species, and some 25 percent of marine life, depend on coral reefs at some point in their existence.
The additional stress from warming waters is like “the proverbial nail in the coffin,” says Erinn Muller, the science director at the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.
All the scientists interviewed for this article noted that mitigating climate change is the only long-term, sustainable solution to conserve and restore coral reefs.