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Warrior rofessor Raquel S. Peixoto is a marine microbiologist from Brazil, the co-chair of the Coral Conservation Committee with the International

Coral Reef Society and an associate professor at KAUST, leading a team of researchers and the students trying to better understand the

P microbiome associated with coral, essentially developing a microbial therapy to protect coral reefs.

“Coral reefs are a unique and biodiverse ecosystems,” said Professor Peixoto during her recent interview with MTR TV. “About 32% of the named marine species depend on coral reefs, although they only cover a 0.1% of the ocean surface. On top of the immense importance of these ecosystems, biologically and ecologically speaking, they also protect our coast against waves and storms.

About 90% of the height and energy of waves are actually minimized or dis- sipated by coral reefs.”

The rise in greenhouse gas emissions and resultant marine heatwaves and ocean acidi? cation has led to coral bleaching and the decrease of calci? cation rates of not only corals, but other marine calcifying organisms, according to

Professor Peixoto. “On top of this global threat, we also have local impacts that can increase the damage: pollution, land use, agriculture runoff and over ? shing,” to name a few. According to Professor Peixoto, there is an urgency to the situation. “We’ve lost about 50% of the coral reefs in the last 50 years. And about 90% of the coral reefs have bleached at least once in the last years. We have a closing window of opportunities to protect coral reefs.”

While the research continues at a local level, early results are promising as Pro- fessor Peixoto and her team have reportedly found a way to reverse the damaging effects global warming has on coral, increasing bleached coral reefs’ survival rate 23

MTR #5 (18-33).indd 23 7/30/2021 11:20:36 AM

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