Coral reefs are underwater structures which mainly consist of calcium carbonate secretion by corals. Underneath their hard exoskeletons, these coral reefs shield tiny creatures. Not only they provide them shelter, but they also provide them food. Beneath these hard exoskeletons lie tiny little creatures who shield themselves with these hard corals. In the present scenario, due to rising air and water pollution, these corals are quickly becoming endangered. The eco-conscious environmentalist’s remark on this is that if things go on this way, then there will be a day when the knowledge of coral reefs to our future generation will remain confined to colorful storybooks and encyclopedia.
The Big Threat
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat. This is one of the most evident cases of impact of global warming on animals/marine life. The temperature of the seas are also rising, which is leading to coral bleaching. The thermal stress faced by coral reefs was first noted in 1985, and it has gradually become more severe. According to researchers, by the year 2050, 98% of coral reefs worldwide will be affected by extreme thermal stress, leading to bleaching. So the question is: What is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef? Let’s take a look:
What is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef?
The threats to the Great Barrier Reef cannot be taken lightly. Repeated bleaching of the reef’s corals is extremely harmful to the reefs. According to some scientists, some parts will never recover. This is because time is running out for the coral reefs to recover. James Cook University’s scientists analyzed the impact on the reef due to three major bleaching events in the past decades.
The most pristine parts of the reef were affected by high temperatures and the researchers have opined that tough action to arrest or reduce global warning was required to save the reefs. The Great Barrier Reef threats and solutions have to be considered right now, as the bleaching events have almost become normal events. Some very old corals, about 50-100 years old, were destroyed which would be almost impossible to replace.
What is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef – this is the question the scientists are concerned about. Researchers conducting aerial surveys found that bleaching was not caused by overfishing and run-off. Satellite data proved that the reefs were affected only by high temperatures. Coral bleaching occurred in pristine waters as well as muddy, turbid water near the shore. The 2016 and 2017 back to back bleaching events has made it imperative for governments and people to take stern steps to check global warming. The bleaching events so close together is a first, and have also shown that these events do not necessarily coincide with El Nino.
Great Barrier Reef threats and solutions are being studied and there are some interesting solutions that have been put forward by the scientific community.
Innovative solutions to help save the Great Barrier Reefs
The world, which largely ignored the warnings of scientists about the disaster waiting to happen since 2001, has now woken up to the fact that we may actually lose this precious underwater ecosystem. The reports in the media were either very conflicting with one side already referring to the reefs’ ‘death’ and there were many threats to the Great Barrier Reef. The other view was that the reefs were undergoing natural cycle. So who do you believe?
The truth is, the reefs are not extinct or dead as yet, but they are not perfectly healthy either. In fact, they are under great stress. This has led to scientists coming up with unique solutions to save the reefs:
Super corals may be the answer
Super corals could be one of the answers to what is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef. They are being bred by researchers to fight global warming. These new lab-bred corals can be tested on the GBR within one year. The scientists hope to accelerate evolution as well as save the beautiful coral reefs from becoming extinct.
Scientists have got promising results from the cross-breeding of various species of corals. They are trying to develop strains of symbiotic algae which the corals depend on. They have been mapping out algae genomes to assess whether genetic engineering is possible.
Planting corals on the reefs
One of the major breakthroughs is the successful reproduction of algae in an aquarium in London. The production of algae in an aquarium has been increased, and would probably be planted on the Florida coast in 2019.
Snap freezing or cryopreservation process if being refined to create seed banks of the algae. If the process is successful, then the reefs may be sprayed with symbionts to help them fight the heat.
Perhaps the most promising solution is creating coral hybrids – corals from cooler water would be crossed with those belonging to warmer waters to create hybrids which can withstand heat.
So what is being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef? Plenty – though all scientists are not convinced with ‘assisted evolution’, or other methods of human intervention. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authorities are one step ahead – they are working out a policy to permit intervention as well as strict conditions to do that in. But we all need to do what we can to reduce fossil fuel emissions so that the global temperature comes down, and the exquisite corals survive for centuries to come.
Five eco-friendly solutions for coral reef restoration
Environmentalists are working hard to restore the coral reefs against pollution. Let us have a look at five important measures that came up till date to restore the endangered coral reefs:
The eco-conscious student of Industrial Design, Mr. Derek Bennion, has given the threat of extinction of coral reefs a really serious thought. Hence, he came up with the concept, Motorola Coral Rasa. He kept this name after the inspiration he got from the Great Barrier Reef in Indonesia. Rasa in Indonesian means sense. So, this hi-tech device will comprise of sensors and an advanced monitoring system. This will send out feedback on the underwater condition where coral reefs are there, in the form of audio and visual monitoring system.
The alert will be intense when the device detects something really awful. This whole unit has three distinct parts. The lower most part has three legs. These legs spike securely into the ocean bed. The middle part comprises of all the battery and the hard dive equipment while the topmost part has equipment like camera, lens, hydrophone, water tester, LED etc.
2. Liquid Chimney
Designer duo, Tom Kiser and William McDonough, were also concerned about the fate of the coral reefs. Thus, they designed an instrument that will absorb the harmful gases that circulate in the air and lead to greenhouse effect. The device will be intensely functional as it will turn these harmful gases into harmless materials that will be safe to deposit even in the ocean beds without any harm of endangering the coral reefs in the process.
The principle of working of this device will comprise of a series of rings made out of stainless steel that end up in a large surface area. Thus, when the harmful gases will enter inside the stainless steel rings of this liquid chimney, it would flow into the large surface if it is a liquid component. On the other hand, if it is a gas, they will spray it at the top of the chamber of this apparatus. After recycling, the effluent will either flow out or expel from the chimney at the top.
3. Cloud-Seeding Yachts
Professor brothers, John Latham and Stephan Salter, came up with the conclusion that burning of fossil fuels is the chief culprit that sets the most harsh blow on the coral reefs. Thus, they invented equipment known as the Cloud-Seeding Yachts. These are yachts that run on wind power and aim at arresting global warming. The function of these highly advanced yachts will be to pump up the ocean waters into the clouds and make them get thicken so that they can reflect more solar energy back. This will encourage more sunrays to reflect back into the space instead of reverting back to earth and raising the temperature of earth as a consequence. This attempt will reduce global warming.
4. Test-Tube Coral Babies
This coral reef restoration project will feature a number of conical tent collectors. Scientists will mount these on the coral reef off Key Largo. These cones will collect the sperms and eggs of the corals and send them to the testing jars. The scientists will take the fertilized eggs to the laboratory to culture test tube coral babies. Once they are mature, scientists will send them back to the ocean. After that, using a fine mesh, they will cover these artificial coral reefs.
5. Coral Transplantation
Some eco conscious scientists have thought implementing the process of coral transplantation in order to restore these endangered coral reefs. The scientists believe this will be an economical measure to restore back the damaged and destroyed coral reefs. After some successful attempts, the scientist found that the corals respond well to this method of restoration by growing healthily and propagating at a much faster rate.