Coral experts have scaled up their advanced technological approach to restoring baby corals on damaged areas of the Great Barrier Reef, using large inflatable ‘coral nurseries’ to help grow coral babies and a robotic ‘LarvalBoat’ to help disperse them back onto damaged sections of reef.
Project leader Southern Cross University Professor Peter Harrison has partnered with QUT Professor Matthew Dunbabin for a second year, using a scaled up QUT robotic design to help distribute the vital coral babies at Moore Reef off Cairns. It follows the successful trial of the world-first robotic coral delivery system last year, and larger hectare scale delivery on reefs in the Philippines earlier this year.
Researchers from Southern Cross University, JCU, QUT, and UTS worked with reef tourism partners Reef Magic and Aroona Boat Charters to collect many millions of coral eggs and sperm from the reef during last week’s spectacular annual mass coral spawning events on the Great Barrier Reef, using Professor Harrison’s spawn catcher and floating nursery pool systems to grow the coral larvae.
Professor Harrison pioneered the coral larval restoration technique (known as coral IVF), and says this week the team has settled millions of coral babies back onto the reef, with coral polyps already starting to grow.
“The larval restoration technique involves capturing spawn from thermally tolerant corals that have survived mass bleaching devastation, and rearing millions of larvae in floating nursery pools so they don’t float away before they are capable of settling on the reef,” Professor Harrison said.
“We’re excited to have successfully released millions of coral larvae back onto the reef using methods including QUT’s LarvalBoat, and dispersing large-scale larval clouds from nets onto damaged sections of the reef. But it’s important everyone understands that restoration alone cannot save these beautiful complex reef ecosystems. Urgent action on climate change is required to ensure their survival.”