Scientists have embarked on a major attempt to rebuild coral in the perilous Great Barrier Reef, spawning millions of creatures of eggs and sperm every year. Researchers on Wednesday said they plan to grow coral larvae from harvested eggs and return them to reef areas that are seriously damaging to climate-related coral bleaching.
"This is the first time that a large-scale larvae is cultivated directly at the Great Barrier Reef," said Peter Harrison of the Southern Cross University, one of the project's leaders. "Our team will restore hundreds of square meters to reach square kilometers in the future, a scale that has not been tried before," he said.
The release of the Larival Restoration Project was made to coincide with the annual coral spawning reef that started this week and lasts only 48 to 72 hours.
Coral along a large 2300-kilometer reef ridge has been killed, with the rise in sea temperature associated with climate change, leaving skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching. The northern coast of the Rhine suffered from unprecedented two consecutive serious bleaching years in 2016 and 2017, causing fears that it could have been irreparably damaged.
Harrison and colleagues are hoping that their transformation project can help change the trend, but he warned that efforts would not be enough to save the reef. "Climate policy is the only way to ensure the survival of coral reefs in the future," he said. Scientists hope that corals that survive bleaching are more tolerant to temperature rise, so breeding plants from spawning in this year will grow in corals, which will better survive in future bleaching processes.
The researchers said their new project was to grow coral larvae with microscopic algae. Both live in a symbiosis on the reefs. "So we're trying to quickly accelerate this process to see if the survival and early growth of newly-formed corals can be enhanced by swiftly absorbing algae," said David Suggett, Sydney University of Technology.
Published at Dawn on November 29, 2018