Researchers turn to new technique for boosting coral growth in the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef's corals have long been dying off, but a new technique could help stem the problem.
The Great Barrier Reef's corals have long been dying off, but a new technique could help stem the problem.
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The corals which adorn Australia's Great Barrier Reef have long been struggling due to global warming and pollution, but researchers may have found a way to potentially ease the decline.

In the first project of its kind on the Reef, scientists have devised a technique to accelerate the growth of coral through a process called larval reseeding.?

The method involves collecting large amounts of coral eggs and sperm during a mass spawning, then using that to produce more than a million larvae.?

This larvae is then reintroduced onto the reef in underwater mesh tents.?

Underwater mesh tents used to reintroduce coral spawn.

Underwater mesh tents used to reintroduce coral spawn.

Image: GARY CRANITCH, QUEENSLAND MUSEUM

A pilot project that began in November 2016 has garnered results one year later, with scientists discovering that the baby corals had indeed established themselves on the reef.?

"This pilot study carried out on Heron Island shows that our new techniques to give corals a helping hand to conceive and then settle, develop and grow in their natural environment can work on the Great Barrier Reef," lead researcher Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University said in a statement online.

Birthing tanks with parent colonies.

Birthing tanks with parent colonies.

Image: GARYCRANITCH, QUEENSLANDMUSEUM

"The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef but has potential global significance — it shows we can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been chartph.compromised."

So far, larval reseeding shows more promise than other reef restoration techniques like coral gardening, which involves the breaking of healthy coral in the hope it'll grow, or growing coral in nurseries before they're replanted.

"Coral gardening is the most widely used technique in other reef regions but we know it is expensive and often doesn't work very well and sometimes it fails chartph.completely," Harrison added.

Coral spawn up close.

Coral spawn up close.

Image: GARY CRANITCH, QUEENSLANDMUSEUM

While the new technique offers hope, the fact of the matter is the reef could chartph.completely die off by 2100 if human-induced global warming isn't kept in check.?

"It's also important to keep in mind that restoration options like this don’t lessen the need for strong action to reduce the major drivers of reef decline being climate change, water quality and pest management," Anna Marsden, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, said.?

As we've seen recently, global chartph.complacency on climate change has been significant and frustrating, to say the least.?