Science

Artificial Sun Shield To Shield The Great Barrier Reef

Shield The Great Barrier Reef
steinchen / Pixabay

Australian scientists are working on different ways to save and preserve the diverse marine life and nature that surrounds the Great Barrier Reef. One of the ideas includes an ultra-thin biodegradable film that would shield the Great Barrier Reef and reduce the ultraviolet rays coming from the sun. This idea came after the marine life became endangered due to warming waters, carbon-dioxide in the water, and other impacts from human-induced global warming.

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage-listed site. More importantly, it’s one of the most popular natural attractions in Australia, with millions of tourists that enjoy their beauties every year. One of the most dangerous effects on the reef is coral bleaching that is a result of the warming waters.

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Biology have taken things into their own hands in order to shield the Great Barrier Reef, by conducting tests on an invention known as a floating “sun shield.” The shield consists of calcium carbonate, and the scientists determined it has a positive effect and that it can shield the Great Barrier Reef from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

“It’s designed to sit on the surface of the water above the corals, rather than directly on the corals, to provide an effective barrier against the sun,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden told Phys.org. “It (the project) created an opportunity to test the idea that by reducing the amount of sunlight from reaching the corals in the first place, we can prevent them from becoming stressed which leads to bleaching,” Marsden said.

Researchers from different disciplines participated in the project, led by the scientist who also created the polymer bank notes for the country.

“In this case, we had chemical engineers and experts in polymer science working with marine ecologists and coral experts to bring this innovation to life,” Marsden said.

Australia relies heavily on coal-fired power, and for a relatively small population it uses a lot per capita. It puts Australia into some of the world’s worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters. Advocates are encouraging Canberra to do more that could reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.

Also, there are natural impacts that pose a danger to the reef. The coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish is a predator that is deadly to the coral.

According to Marsden, it would be impractical to use the “sun shield,” that would be made from the same material as is found in coral skeletons, to cover the 216,000 square-mile reef on a big scale. “But it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high-value or high-risk areas of reef,” Marsden added.

“The concept needs more work and testing before it gets to that stage, but it’s an exciting development at a time when we need to explore all possible options to ensure we have a Great Barrier Reef for future generations.”