Science | November 29, 2021 2:18 pm

A Recipe for Stock Market Success Might Also Help the World’s Coral Reefs

An unlikely combination to benefit the planet

Coral reef as shown from under the water
An unexpected theory might help preserve coral reefs.
Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash

In 1990, economist Harry Markowitz received the Nobel Prize for his work developing the concept of “modern portfolio theory.” Markowitz’s work in the field spanned decades, with his paper “Portfolio Selection” first being published in 1952. But it turns out the economic theory can do a lot more than help investors do well in the stock market.

An article at Investopedia describes modern portfolio theory as “a method that can be used by risk-averse investors to construct diversified portfolios that maximize their returns without unacceptable levels of risk.” As Karen McVeigh reports at The Guardian, a group of researchers at the University of Queensland took this concept and applied it to coral reefs in an effort to save them from dying off in the face of the climate crisis.

Consider reef preservation as a form of investment and you’ll have a sense of where this is going. According to The Guardian’s article, the researchers suggested that the optimal strategy for preserving coral reefs is to focus on the 50 most likely to survive climate change with an eye towards using those reefs to repopulate others if necessary.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a professor at the University of Queensland, described the project as “our best shot at having a long-term future for coral reefs.” It’s an unlikely way of going about it — but climate change seems tailor-made for unconventional solutions and unexpected theories.