Why researchers are trying to grow the Great Barrier Reef faster

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Experts from Australia are working to find out how the Great Barrier Reef can adapt to climate change and global warming.

Researchers hope to avoid further damage by using technology to study coral reproduction, accelerate growth and buy time.

David Wachenfeld from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority spoke in an interview. “Over the last eight to 10 years, pretty much every coral reef area in the world has experienced severe impacts from marine heatwaves leading to coral bleaching. We’ve seen bigger impacts in the last few years than ever before, including very large amounts of coral dying in shallow waters on reefs throughout the world.

“At one and a half degrees of warming, with strong local management to boost resilience, we think we can protect coral reefs in many places. But as we approach two degrees, and certainly as we pass it, we will lose the world’s coral reefs and all the benefits that they give to humanity,”He concluded.

Researchers are collecting coral eggs and sperm to find ways to speed up the coral’s reproductive cycle and boost genes that can survive higher temps.

Mike Emslie from the Australian Institute for Marine Science spoke to me in an interview. “The surprising thing was that, although these bleaching events occurred, they didn’t reach the levels of heat stress where we expect widespread coral mortality. So, in essence, the Great Barrier Reef has had a bit of a reprieve in the last few years and has enabled the corals to recover to the highest levels we’ve seen.”

They will rely on coral seeding intervention, similar to tree planting, to help coral grow at a faster rate.

“Our current target for the coral seeding intervention that’s being developed is to deploy tens to hundreds of millions of corals per-year. And so, the research that we’re doing here, is looking at how we can upscale, how we can deploy large numbers of corals, and where we should be deploying those corals to maximize the chance of survival and success of the intervention,”Carly Randall, Australian Institute for Marine Science, added the following:

But this will only work if emissions are under control.

“The reef is resilient, and it can recover from these acute events if we give it a chance. So, we need to reduce emissions and give this wonderful, beautiful, iconic system a chance and to let people know that it’s worth fighting for,”Randall agreed.

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