Transplant of coral larvae spurs hope

AFP
Coral bred in a part of the Great Barrier Reef was successfully transplanted into another area in a project aimed at restoring damaged ecosystems around the world.
AFP

Coral bred in a part of the Great Barrier Reef was successfully transplanted into another area in a project aimed at restoring damaged ecosystems around the world, Australian scientists said on Sunday.

In a trial at the reef’s Heron Island off Australia’s east coast, the researchers collected large amounts of coral spawn and eggs late last year, grew them into larvae and transplanted them into areas of damaged reef.

When they returned eight months later, they found juvenile coral that had survived and grown, aided by underwater mesh tanks.

“The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef but has potential global significance,” said lead researcher Peter Harrison of the Southern Cross University.

“It shows we can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been compromised.”

Harrison said his mass larval-restoration approach contrasted with the current “coral gardening” method of breaking up healthy coral and sticking healthy branches on reefs in the hope that they would regrow, or growing coral in nurseries before transplantation.

He was optimistic that his approach — which had earlier been successfully trialled in the Philippines in an area of reef highly degraded by blast fishing — could help reefs to recover on a larger scale.

“The results are very promising and our work shows that adding higher densities of coral larvae leads to higher numbers of successful coral recruits,” said Harrison.

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth, is reeling from an unprecedented second year in a row of coral bleaching because of warming sea temperatures that are related to climate change.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said there was a need for such efforts amid the accelerating impacts of climate change.



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