The Great Barrier Reef stretches for over a thousand miles along Australia’s northeastern coast. “The idea here is to use an automated technique that allows us to target delivery of the larvae into damaged reef systems and increase the efficiency that new coral communities can be generated”, Peter Harrison, director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University and the leader of the coral restoration project, told NBC News. Unprecedented back-to-back bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef has changed the physiology of tougher coral, making them more resilient to future stress, new research suggests. Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef has changed the tougher coral, making them more resilient. Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their color. But the researchers will have to wait and see if the microscopic baby corals take hold.
Coral reefs are home to about a quarter of ocean life, and act as nurseries for many species of fish. Ecology and technology have combined to give nature a helping hand, using a robot to deliver heat-tolerant coral larvae directly onto Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the first small-scale pilot of a new technique to help restore and recover coral reefs. And while this suggests the reef may be more resilient than once thought, it has likely never faced an onslaught quite as severe as today, they added. The reef is suffering from water pollution, overfishing and warmer seawater brought on by climate change, but the new finding suggests that the reef may be more resilient than previously thought. Rates of change are likely much faster now – and in future projections.
In April, a study said nearly a third of the reef’s coral was killed in a “catastrophic die-off” during a violent heatwave in 2016. The study, led by researchers from Deakin University and James Cook University and published in Biology Letters on December 12, measured the carbon contained in sediment cores taken from a total of 19 sites along the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. But overall, it’s clear the seagrass living along the Great Barrier Reef are helping save their very ecosystem. Climate change is one of the greatest threats to coral reefs, with many corals expelling the algae that provide their food when the water is too warm. Ocean acidification, also a result of carbon dioxide building up in our atmosphere, is another threat to reefs worldwide. Scientists in Australia are attempting to restore the Great Barrier Reef by using IVF-style techniques on coral.
The 2,300-kilometer ( 1,400-mile ) long UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef off Australia’s northeastern coast was hit by back-to-back bleaching in 2016 and 2017. But Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University, who has been leading the surveys of bleached corals, found in the latest study, published in Nature Climate Change, that the response of the reef was different between the two years. The prior experience of the corals has toughened them up. Professor Peter Harrison, from Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia, one of the project leaders, said he is “excited by the results” which show the experimental process known as “coral IVF” is working on a small scale. The bleaching occurs when warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change put major stress on coral organisms, turning them white. Harrison, called it “the largest larval restoration project that’s ever been attempted not only on the Great Barrier Reef but anywhere in the world”. Although the hybrid corals have yet to make it on to the Reef – and it could be decades before they’re introduced on a large scale, if at all-controlled field trials may be one or two years away.
Seventy-five percent of the world’s coral species are found here – nearly 600 different species. The current bleaching event is the worst in history. Any recommendations will be on top of existing measures to improve water quality on the World Heritage-listed Reef and actions to manage crown-of-thorns starfish infestations. The researchers say that under climate change, projected increases in sea level and the magnitude of large wave events could actually lead to the growth of reef islands, but only if the coral reef remains healthy to provide the building material. However, Dr Holly East of the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Northumbria University, Newcastle, stressed that this could only occur if healthy live coral was available in the region’s reef communities. Coral bleaching is a general response of corals to increased sea surface temperature.
Though scientists are worried about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a major new study shows that the reef was able to come back from a series of “death events” over the last 30,000 years, NBC News reported. Those big questions include – How well will the Great Barrier Reef adapt to a changing climate and more acidic oceans? Why do populations of the destructive Crown of Thorns starfish periodically boom, and can scientists develop technologies to control them? They’ll also be able to study the phenomenon of coral bleaching and will be conducting experiments to see if corals can be pursuaded to spawn out of season to mitigate the impact of warmer temperatures.
For the first time we are going to try on a large scale to capture literally millions of eggs and sperm during the coral spawning event. We’ve lost so many corals that fewer corals are able to spawn and rates of fertilisation are going to be lower and the billions of larvae the reef needs to be replenished naturally [won’t be produced] . At the top of the list is climate change. The warmer temperatures are leading to less ice cover, more evaporation, and lower lake levels. Experts differ on the long term implications. Destructive fishing methods, such as cyanide poisoning and dynamite fishing, are still widely practiced. By the end of this century the Great Barrier Reef and most reefs around the world that could be classed as tropical will be 90 percent dead! Scientists observed 24 percent coral bleaching with 16 percent mortality and live coral cover decrease to 23 percent during March to June 2016.