SYDNEY • Scientists have launched the largest attempt to regenerate coral on the Great Barrier Reef by harvesting millions of creatures' eggs and sperm during their annual spawning.
The researchers said yesterday that they plan to grow coral larvae from harvested eggs and return them to areas of the reef which have been badly damaged by climate-related coral bleaching.
"This is the first time that the whole process of large-scale larval rearing and remediation will be undertaken directly on the Great Barrier Reef," said Professor Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University, one of the project leaders.
"Our team will be restoring hundreds of square meters with the goal of getting to square kilometers in the future, and a scale not attempted before," he said in a statement.
The "Larval Restoration Project" launch was timed to coincide with the annual coral spawn on the reef, which began earlier this week and will last only about 48 to 72 hours.
Coral along the large swathes of the 2,300km reef have been killed by rising sea temperatures linked to climate change, leaving behind skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching.
Prof Harrison warned that the reseeding project would not be enough to save the reef. "Climate action is the only way to ensure that coral reefs can survive in the future," he said.
The researchers, who also include experts from James Cook University and the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS), said the novelty of their reseeding project was to grow coral larvae together with microscopic algae. The two live in the symbiosis on the reef.
In Indonesia, over a third of the country's coral reefs are in poor condition, scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences said on Tuesday. The precarious state of the coral reefs was revealed after a survey of 1067 sites across the sprawling country of more than 17,000 islands.