CORDIS - EU research results

From microns to reefs: mechanistic insights into coral biomineralisation and the fate of coral reefs

Project description

Researching the coral biomineralisation process

Coral reefs are a very important part of oceanic fauna and flora, serving as safe havens for a variety of underwater creatures and plants. Unfortunately, coral reefs are under threat as they have been among the most heavily affected victims of anthropogenic climate change, leaving countless species in danger while also causing problems to human settlements due to the sudden lack of benefits such as coastal defence and sustainable fisheries. Studies suggest that coral reef survival is heavily dependent on coral biomineralisation, but little research has been conducted on this process, making it hard to replicate or assist it. The EU-funded Microns2Reefs project aims to change this by providing a mechanistic understanding of coral biomineralisation and coral reef resilience.


Coral Reefs are under threat from climate change, pollution and other local and global anthropogenic disturbances. Microns2Reefs will go beyond the state of the art by providing the mechanistic understanding needed to accurately predict their fate given the multifaceted and multifactorial anthropogenic threats they face. Coral reefs provide many ecosystem functions, from coastal defence to sustaining fisheries. These, and many others, critically depend on the 3D framework of the reef made from the skeletons of Scleractinian corals. The coral biomineralisation tool kit is known but key questions remain: what biomineralisation tools are most important? what and how do environmental and biological factors limit and influence biomineralisation? how does the environmental sensitivity of coral biomineralisation determine the diversity, resilience, and survivability of individual colonies and the entire reef? The answers to these questions are key to inform the strategies needed to effectively manage these diversity hotspots and are placed into sharp focus by recent coral mass mortality events and the rapidity of anthropogenic climate change.

Microns2Reefs will produce a step change by integrating a raft of new and innovative scientific techniques to provide a mechanistic understanding of coral biomineralisation and hence coral reef resilience. Microns2Reefs has four objectives: 1) to develop a novel multimodal imaging technique to reconstruct the nature of the calcifying fluid and the biomineralisation process in 3D; 2) use this to build a detailed model of coral biomineralisation; 3) develop a mechanistic understanding of the relationship between environment and skeleton construction; 4) quantify the future resilience of corals and coral reefs in the face of multiple anthropogenic stressors. Microns2Reefs is only now feasible due to recent analytical developments, exchange of knowledge and ideas from biomedical sciences, and advances in geochemistry and coral genomics.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 3 492 322,00
SO17 1BJ Southampton
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Hampshire and Isle of Wight Southampton
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 3 492 322,00

Beneficiaries (1)