Researchers say that a technique dubbed “coral IVF” has shown promising signs that it could be used to restore some of the damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which has lost more than half its coral in the past three decades due to global warming, pollution and other threats to its long-term future.
The IVF – in vitro fertilization – technique sees the collection of coral sperm and eggs during the annual mass spawning event on the reef, which is located off the coast of northeast Australia and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
These are then used to grow coral larvae in specially designed enclosures.
After about a week, the larvae are distributed to areas of damaged reef in need of live coral.
The tactic was first deployed just off Heron Island in 2016 and a survey carried out this month shows that the replanted coral is thriving with more than 60 new corals of varying sizes growing on the reef.
“I’m really excited. We’ve just been over to the site in Heron Island lagoon, where we put larvae onto certain parts of the reef in 2016. And we’ve found a lot of very large corals that have grown from those larvae,” lead researcher Professor Peter Harrison told Reuters.
The new coral is healthy, say researchers, and even survived a mass bleaching event in March.
“This proves that the larvae restoration technique works just as we predicted and we can grow very large corals from tiny microscopic larvae within just a few years,” said Harrison.
Mass bleaching has hit the reef in three of the last five years.
The phenomenon occurs when rising water temperatures destroy the algae which the coral feeds on, causing them to turn white and in many cases die.
A recent study from James Cook University’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that the reef had lost more than half its coral since 1995.
Source: Thanks france24