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5 November, 2020

Coral 'ark' for Port Douglas

Port Douglas not-for-profit conservation group Great Barrier Reef Legacy is working with Traditional Owners, industry and corporate partners, research collaborators, government organisations and tourism operators, to establish the world’s first Living Coral Biobank.

This ambitious project, to be located on land donated by the Douglas Shire on Wharf Street, will preserve the genetic biodiversity of hard coral species by collecting and maintaining living samples of some 800 species from all over the world.

The 6,830 square metre, four-level design will also be a tourism attraction and education centre, including an auditorium, classrooms, and research and laboratory facilities allowing tourists, scientists and students to view, learn about and study the corals.

The design promises to have zero carbon footprint, using only renewable energy sources and functioning with optimum efficiency.

Designed by Australian firm Contreras Earl Architecture, who have ties to the region, along with leading engineering and sustainability consultants  Arup, and Werner Sobek, the new building typology – a ‘living ark’ – will be the only dedicated facility of its kind in the world.

Living Coral Biobank Project Director and Managing Director of Great Barrier Reef Legacy Dr Dean Miller said with climate change accelerating ocean warming, there was no time to lose in starting to collect specimens of each coral to preserve as ‘backups’ in case of wild coral species loss.

“We’ve had three mass coral bleachings in the last five years, and we might have a big cyclone or more bleaching this summer. We are losing coral diversity every time those events occur, and the longer we wait, the more we risk losing,” he said.

“The establishment of a living coral biobank does not detract from, but only highlights the urgent need to accelerate actions to reduce the effects of climate change and to reduce local impacts on coral reefs.

“However, the Living Coral Biobank complements these efforts, providing us with an insurance policy preserving the full biodiversity of corals forever, by taking advantage of corals’ natural ability to live for hundreds of years under the correct conditions.”

Climate Council Chief Executive Officer Amanda McKenzie applauded the initiative.

“The Biobank building will be of immense importance for coral conservation and the community of Port Douglas,” she said.

“As an education, research and design experience, it will contribute to the town’s resilience, development and enhance its worldwide recognition as the gateway to the world’s ever-more precious resource that is the Great Barrier Reef.”

For more on this exciting project visit

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