In a world first, a small robot was deployed to plant thousands of baby coral in a mass repopulation project for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The LarvalBot is a briefcase-sized underwater drone that recently dispersed over 100,000 microscopic heat-resistant coral larvae across damaged segments of reef.
In a bid to protect the marine life from climate change, the coral larvae was derived from species that have been shown to be especially tolerant of warmer waters. Scientists will monitor the reefs during the coming months to ensure that the larvae grows properly – and if it proves to be successful, researchers plan on developing the LarvalBot so that it can deploy millions more coral larvae in the future.
Furthermore, they hope to deploy a small army of LarvalBots that will be able to repopulate coral reefs around the world.
“This year represents a big step up for our larval restoration research and the first time we’ve been able to capture coral spawn on a bigger scale using large floating spawn catchers then rearing them into tiny coral larvae in our specially constructed larval pools and settling them on damaged reef areas,” said Professor Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University, one of the colleges that helped to develop the project.
“With further research and refinement, this technique has enormous potential to operate across large areas of reef and multiple sites in a way that hasn’t previously been possible,” he added. “We’ll be closely monitoring the progress of settled baby corals over coming months and working to refine both the technology and the technique to scale up further in 2019.”
(WATCH the video below) – Photo by Gary Cranitch / Queensland Museum / Great Barrier Reef Foundation
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