Science

Could Coral Transplant Restore The Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef corals have suffered a lot from coral bleaching, a process where the warm water currents stress and damage an organism which later dies. Recently, scientists have managed to transplant one coral bred into another area successfully. On Sunday, Australian scientists announced a project that, according to them, could restore various damaged ecosystems worldwide, which is good news for the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef
steinchen / Pixabay

Last November, scientists gathered a great number of coral spawn and eggs at the reef’s Heron Island. Scientists grew eggs into larvae, which they later transplanted into various areas in the damaged reef. They returned about eight months later and saw juvenile coral which managed to survive and grow with the help of underwater mesh tanks.

“The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef but has potential global significance,” said lead researcher Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University in a statement. “It shows we can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been compromised.”

Harrison added that the coral transplant is different than the “coral gardening” process which includes breaking parts of healthy coral and planting healthy branches on reef areas hoping they will grow again, or the method which includes growing corals in nurseries. His approach was optimistic, and it resulted in success in the Philippines in areas of the reef which were affected by dynamite fishing. Thanks to the success in the Philippines, scientists believe that the method could be applied globally.

“The results are very promising, and our work shows that adding higher densities of coral larvae leads to higher numbers of successful coral recruits,” he said.

The Great Barrier Reef, is considered the largest living structure on Earth and has been affected by coral bleaching for the second-straight year, causing stress or death in the organisms. It’s happening because of the warm sea temperatures that have increased every year, most likely because of climate changes.

The chief scientists of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said that it was necessary for such restoration efforts, due to the influence of these climate changes in the reef.

“The success of these first trials is encouraging – the next challenge is to build this into broader scale technology that is going to make a difference to the Reef as a whole,” David Wachenfeld said.

The Great Barrier Reef is 1,400 miles long and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.