Tuesday March 19, 2019
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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef To Get Help From Rescue Bot

The Great Barrier Reef is about the same size as Italy or Japan.

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A large piece of coral can be seen in the lagoon on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Bundaberg town in Queensland, Australia. VOA

For the first time an underwater robot is to be used to plant baby coral to parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef damaged by mass bleaching, as scientists plan to collect hundreds of millions of coral spawn off the Queensland city of Cairns in the coming weeks.

Most coral reproduce through spawning, where eggs and sperm are pushed into the water at the same time. In northern Australia, researchers are preparing to harvest this mass release of coral spawn on the Great Barrier Reef. They will be reared into baby corals in floating enclosures. Then they will be delivered as so-called ‘larval clouds’ to Vlasoff Reef about an hour’s sailing from Cairns by a semi-autonomous robot.

Professor Peter Harrison, the director of the Marine Ecology Research Center at Southern Cross University, said science is giving a nature a helping hand.

great barrier reef
Many ways wee introduced in the past to map ocean floors and the newest one is from Japan. Pixabay

“What we are trying to do now is compensate for the loss of corals that would normally provide enough larvae for the system to naturally heal,” Harrison said.

Large areas of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have been damaged by severe bleaching – or loss of the algae that gives coral its color. The bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures and made worse by climate change.

The experiment on Vlasoff reef, which was badly affected by the mass bleaching, will be coordinated by divers, who will guide the spawn-spreading robot, known as the LarvalBot.

Professor Matthew Dunbabin from the Queensland University of Technology says time is of essence.

great barrier reef
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia. VOA

“In future projects we are hoping that we can start to do that more autonomously, but this is very new and we are up against the clock in terms of trying to get this in the field as quick as possible to make sure that we can have a reef to preserve,” Dunbabin said.

A coral reef is made up of millions of tiny animals called coral polyps. The reefs are critical ecosystems, and provide a home for at least a quarter of all marine species.

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The Great Barrier Reef is about the same size as Italy or Japan. Thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been recorded along the reef.

It faces a range of threats, from climate change and overfishing, to the run-off of pollution from farms, to coral-eating crown of thorns starfish. (VOA)

Next Story

Great Barrier Reef Faces Australian Floods Dirty Water

The water has not dispersed due to its size and a recent lack of wind.

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Australia, floods
The water has not dispersed due to its size and a recent lack of wind. Pixabay

Dirty water from a flood crisis in north Australia has spread to parts of the Great Barrier Reef, placing it under stress, scientists have said. The floods are the result of weeks of devastating rain in Queensland. Some regions experienced the equivalent of a year’s rainfall in 10 days.

Aerial pictures show that run-off from one river has blanketed some reef areas more than 60 kilometres from shore, the BBC reported on Friday.

The UN calls the Great Barrier Reef, located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, the “most biodiverse” of all the World Heritage sites, and of “enormous scientific and intrinsic importance”.

Australia, flood
The floods are the result of weeks of devastating rain in Queensland. Pixabay

Scientists fear the sediment-laden waters may be blocking out light and effectively “smothering” coral.

In recent weeks, run-off from several rivers has coalesced to affect an approximately 600 kilometre stretch of the reef’s outer edges, scientists said. The water has not dispersed due to its size and a recent lack of wind.

The water has not dispersed due to its size and a recent lack of wind.The water has not dispersed due to its size and a recent lack of wind.

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Frederieke Kroon from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said the nutrient-rich water had also sparked algae growth in some areas, turning waters “a thick blanket of green”.

The reef is already facing threats to its survival such as coral bleaching caused by warmer sea temperatures. It has also been damaged by cyclones. (IANS)