Co­ral Reefs Re­vived In Large In­cu­ba­tors

A new method is to re­vive the world’s co­ral reefs by com­bin­ing lab-grown lar­vae with dy­ing corals.

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

NA­TURE Once a year, corals breed. Right af­ter full moon and in the mid­dle of the night, mil­lions of small, or­ange-red bub­bles rise from the ocean floor like “snow”. The bub­bles are lumps of sperm and egg cells from corals, which are hermaphrodites. At the ocean sur­face, the lumps dis­in­te­grate, and eggs and cells from dif­fer­ent colonies get to­gether.

How­ever, such "par­ties" are get­ting less in­tense, as the world’s co­ral reefs suf­fer due to cli­mate change, ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, and fish­ing. More than 60 % of the co­ral reefs are ei­ther dam­aged or en­dan­gered. So, sci­en­tists are work­ing on boost­ing re­pro­duc­tion. At the Great Bar­rier Reef off Heron Is­land, Aus­tralia, marine bi­ol­o­gist Pe­ter Har­ri­son from the South­ern Cross Univer­sity has helped new gen­er­a­tions of corals along for the first time by means of a new method that could as­sist en­dan­gered co­ral reefs through-out the world.

In the lab, the sci­en­tist bred mil­lions of co­ral lar­vae. In­stead of mak­ing them grow more in the lab, he placed them di­rectly on the reef in a gi­ant in­cu­ba­tor – a 100 m2 net that held the lar­vae in place, un­til they set­tled onto the dead corals.

Sci­en­tists plan to use an even big­ger net at some point, as the reefs stretch more than 344,000 km2.

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