Coral-Breeding Programme Offers Hope For Australia's Great Barrier Reef

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The scientist who co-discovered the phenomenon of "sex on the Reef" - mass coral spawning - some 30 years ago is leading the breakthrough which aims to accelerate regrowth of corals.

This time around, mesh tents were used to veil the planted larvae to prevent them from floating to the surface, which Professor Harrison says assists the larvae to attach and settle onto the Reef and form juvenile colonies.

During the November 2016 coral spawning, Professor Harrison and his team travelled to the Great Barrier Reef's Heron Island for the Australian-first trial.

The team returned to Heron Island in November to collect further coral eggs and sperm for the next step in the project.

The Southern Cross University project has raised the concern of restoring damaged coral populations.

Birthing tanks with parent colonies.

"This is the first large-scale study of its kind and our research shows that we can help corals reproduce successfully by increasing larvae settling on the Great Barrier Reef and allowing them to develop into juvenile corals", he said.

"Typically it would take previously bleached coral several years to spawn so this is extremely positive news for the reef", spokesman Jarrod Meakins said.

"It's a new way of looking at the problem and it's probably the only hope for the future in terms of larger scale restoration using hundreds of millions of coral larvae", professor Harrison said, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

Coral-Breeding Programme Offers Hope For Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Coral-Breeding Programme Offers Hope For Australia's Great Barrier Reef

While the new technique offers hope, the fact of the matter is the reef could completely die off by 2100 if human-induced global warming isn't kept in check. "It [may] be one of the answers to some of the problems in the Great Barrier Reef".

Around 275 million people globally directly rely on reefs for livelihood and sustenance, and globally they form the nurseries for around a quarter of the world's fish, according to the UN.

"It is vital everyone keeps working to address climate change and build the Reef's resilience, and for restoration strategies to be developed that can work over large areas", Wachenfeld said.

Dr. Wachenfeld said, "In the past, the Marine Park Authority has had a philosophy of basically getting out of nature's way". Climate change and consequential sea temperature rises are believed to have led to widespread coral "bleaching" - with the reef also under threat from pollution.

"It's really exciting, this essentially is the rebirth of the reef", Professor Harrison said.

"But climate change is really changing that".

The corals which adorn Australia's Great Barrier Reef have always been dying off, but researchers have found a way to potentially ease the decline. Australian scientists are glad to know that this transplantation was successful. "It's time to be bold and take some calculated risks because that's the way we'll make a change in how we can help restore our coral reefs".

"This is a moment for a reality check about the condition of the reef". Vision, images and interview opportunities available on request.

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