SYDNEY • Scientists have launched the largest attempt to regenerate coral on the endangered Great Barrier Reef by harvesting millions of creatures' eggs and sperm during their annual spawning.
The researchers yesterday said they plan to grow coral larvae from harvested eggs and return them to areas of the reef, which have been severely damaged by climate-related bleaching of corals.
"This is the first time that the whole process of large-scale larval rearing and settlement will be undertaken directly on the reefs of the Great Barrier Reef," said Professor Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University, one of the project leaders.
"Our team will be restoring hundreds of square meters with the goal of getting to square kilometers in the future, a scale that has not been attempted before," he said in a statement.
The launch of the "Larval Restoration Project" was timed to coincide with the annual coral spawn on the reef, which began earlier this week and will last only about 48 to 72 hours.
The coral along the large swathes of the 2,300km reef has been killed by rising sea temperatures linked to climate change, leaving behind skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching.
Professor Harrison has warned that the reseeding project will not be enough to save the reef. "Climate action is the only way to ensure that coral reefs can survive into the future," he said.
The researchers, who also include experts from the James Cook University and the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS), said a novelty of their reseeding project was to grow coral larvae along with microscopic algae. The two live in symbiosis on the reef.
In Indonesia, over a third of the country's coral reefs are in bad condition, scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences said on Tuesday. The precarious state of the coral reef was revealed after a survey of 1067 sites across the sprawling country of more than 17,000 islands.