Tuesday July 23, 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.

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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.

Also Read: Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

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

Perth Relies on Recycled Water to Cope up with Climate Change in Australia

Perth is a city of two million people, and Clare Lugar from Western Australia's Water Corporation said it has had to get used to climatic changes

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More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, is officially in drought. Wikimedia Commons

As drought-hit towns across New South Wales and Queensland edge closer to completely running out of water, federal and state governments in Australia are trying to come up with ways to guarantee supplies into the future. But on the other side of the continent, the city of Perth is leagues ahead in its water efficiency following a long-term decline in rainfall. Part of its survival plan relies on recycled water from toilets, a move that many consumers elsewhere still consider to be unpalatable.

Since 2017, residents in the Western Australian city of Perth have been drinking water recycled from sewage. It is filtered using a process called reverse osmosis, which is similar to forcing water through a giant sponge. It is then disinfected with ultra-violet light at a treatment plant, pumped into natural aquifers, and extracted.

Perth is a city of two million people, and Clare Lugar from Western Australia’s Water Corporation said it has had to get used to climatic changes. “We know from the mid-70s onwards Perth’s rainfall has been declining by about 20 percent, and that has had a huge impact on our water sources that are dependent on the climate.”

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FILE – The drought-affected Darling River sits well below its banks at Pooncarie, a town in outback western New South Wales, Australia, April 25, 2019. VOA

Lugar said convincing residents of the benefits of drinking recycled sewage did take time. “So, it is only a small percentage of the water that comes into the plant is actually from our toilets. But getting over that perception, that kind of image you might be drinking the water that you flushing down the toilet – that was probably one of our big challenges initially,” said Lugar.

Two desalination plants supply about half of Perth’s water. Aquifers are also crucial, but recycling produces only two percent of the total. But that figure is soon expected to rise. Ian Wright, an expert in environmental science at Western Sydney University, believes other parts of Australia should embrace recycling.

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“In Sydney that is probably 150 liters per day per person of waste water that is completely wasted, and, yes, we have the availability of desalination on the coast, but Canberra does not have desalination and then the poor drought-stricken towns like Tamworth and Dubbo, and Broken Hill, they could really, really use that now,” he said.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Water is precious, and, in many places, scarce. More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, is officially in drought, and the next three months are forecast to be drier than average. (VOA)