Coral fertility treatment gives hope for Great Barrier Reef

Canberra, June 8 (IANS) A coral fertility treatment designed to help heal damaged parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is showing signs of success and now needs to be scaled up to create a bigger impact, the scientist told CNN on Friday.

Peter Harrison, a professor at Southern Cross University in Australia, said he was “excited by the results” which show the experimental process known as “coral IVF” is working on a small scale.

Recently returned from a trip to the reef, Harrison said his team managed to “significantly increase” the numbers of baby coral on reefs at Heron Island and One Tree Island, where they laid millions of coral larvae 18 months ago.

“There’s a very clear outcome, the higher the numbers of larvae that you put into the reef system, the more coral recruits you get,” Harrison told CNN.

“The pilot studies at small scales are giving us hope that we will be able to scale this up to much larger reef scales.”

The 2,300 km-long Great Barrier Reef — a Unesco World Heritage Site — lost around half of its coral in the past few years after two mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, a pattern repeated on coral reefs around the world.

The bleaching occurs when warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change put major stress on coral organisms, turning them white.

If they do not have time to recover, they eventually die.

The coral IVF project is designed to help reefs repopulate faster to help speed up the recovery time after a bleaching event.

The programme is one of a number of experimental projects underway in Australia to try to find ways to save what’s left of one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

In April, the Australian government announced a funding package of nearly $400 million which will be spent on different projects working towards reef preservation and protection.

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