Coral Transplants Could Save the Great Barrier Reef

A new study reveals that coral transplants and larvae reseeding could bring the Great Barrier Reef back to life. Scientists indicate that they have finally discovered a method that could help them accelerate the growth of coral reefs. Unlike other techniques tested in the past, this one seems to offer the expected results. We all know that the Great Barrier Reef is dying out due to coral bleaching caused by climate change.

Larvae Reseeding

Hence, researchers needed to come up with a solution to save them as soon as possible. They have used larval reseeding to boost the growth of coral reefs. The new method implemented by scientists implies collecting massive amounts of coral eggs and sperm during the spawning season. Then, specialists use these to develop over a million larvae.

After the larvae get developed, researchers take care of reintroducing them in some underwater mesh tents, onto the reef. The pilot project has started in November 2016. The results had appeared one year later when scientists revealed that the baby corals had finally established themselves on the reef. The lead researcher of the study is Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University. He argues that the pilot study was developed on Heron Island.

The study unveils that the techniques they have used to help corals rise from the ashes, conceiving new corals can boost the Great Barrier Reef. Finally, the coral reefs in the area will have a chance to survive since the larval reseeding method proves to work. Scientists are now able to conceive, settle, develop and then watch the baby corals grow in their natural environment.

Harrison has also stated that the success of their new study is not only useful in saving the Great Barrier Reef, but it may even have global significance. Larvae reseeding helps researchers restore and fix damaged coral populations in areas where coral larvae were jeopardized. This technique is more promising than other technique they have tested in the past, such as coral gardening.

Coral gardening

Coral gardening consists of collecting healthy coral and planting it in new, healthy areas while hoping that they will grow. The same method could also mean that researchers have collected some coral species which are in danger to grow them in special nurseries. After they follow their development, scientists are to replant them in their natural habitat.

Harrison says that coral gardening is one of the most popular techniques in numerous reef regions. However, he claims that his team of researchers knows how expensive this restoration technique could be. Furthermore, it also implies the risk of not working properly while sometimes it may completely fail. Even if the larvae reseeding technique sparks hope in saving the coral reefs, we do not know for sure whether scientists will make it.

Statistics indicate that the Great Barrier Reef could completely disappear by 2100 if we do not diminish the global warming effects. Anna Marsden is the managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. She highlights the importance of remembering that restoration options do not decrease the need to fight against climate change effects. We still need to reduce the main drivers of reef decline. Some of these are pest management, water quality, and climate change.

Lyretail Anthias swimming in Coral Reef

Scientists have implemented several restoration techniques to try to save the Great Barrier Reef.

How did this happen?

Coral bleaching has killed about two-thirds of Australia’s 1,430-mile underwater incredible world. It is well-known that this process is linked to climate change. The increase in ocean water temperatures triggered the corals to expel the algae inside them. What is left is just a dead, colorless reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structures in the world. Unfortunately, it is still struggling due to the second-straight year of coral bleaching. The warm temperatures of the water and the terrible heatwaves has severely affected the corals.

Besides that, the corals also have to deal with certain parasites which destroy the corals’ ecosystem. For instance, the sea spider feeds on the Table coral. This parasite gets its nutrients and food from the Table coral which is no longer able to use its resources to survive. Specialists highlight the fact that parasites are naturally occurring components of coral reefs ecosystems.

They play a significant role in the development of corals’ behavior, growth, survival, and reproductive ability. They can also affect the dynamics of coral reefs. Hence, in large numbers, parasites can severely impair the corals, having devastating impacts on the whole ecosystem. Parasites can trigger several illnesses like the black and white band diseases which proved to have a terrible impact on Caribbean coral reefs.

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Coral transplant

Hence, scientists developed these fertility docs to breed baby corals. Luckily, their technique proved to offer amazing results. After they collected the eggs and sperm last year, they watched the larvae grow and then, they have developed coral transplant. In this way, they could have known whether their technique is successful or not.

Scientists transplanted the coral larvae into areas of damaged reef. They have closely followed their development to see whether they were able to adapt to the natural environment. The study revealed successful results since the coral transplant worked. After eight months have passed since the transplant, they noticed that the juvenile coral did not only survive, but it had also grown,

Nevertheless, to make sure the technique will not fail, they set some underwater mesh tanks to aid the coral larvae. If scientists are really able to restore one coral population successfully, this means that they could save all the coral reefs at a global level.

Summing up

Scientists’ new techniques bring hope since they proved to be successful. Larvae reseeding and coral transplant, as well as coral gardening, proved to work wonders, being able to enhance the number of healthy corals. Even if some of the methods are more efficient than others, scientists are glad to have many options, trying all of them. Now, their purpose is to see whether the larvae reseeding technique could work for any coral reef in the world.

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William E. Eubanks
 

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