Scientists have stepped in as environmental matchmakers by breeding baby coral on the Great Barrier Reef in a move that could have worldwide significance.
Coral eggs and sperm were collected from Heron Island’s reef during last November’s coral spawning to produce more than a million larvae.
The larvae were returned to the wild and placed on to reef patches in underwater mesh tents, with 100 surviving and growing successfully.
The lead project researcher and Southern Cross University professor Peter Harrison, who discovered mass coral spawning in the 1980s, says the “results are very promising”.
“The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef, but has potential global significance,” Harrison said.
“It may [also] be one of the answers to some of the problems in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a glimmer of hope.”
The project has the ability to restore damaged coral populations and has seen similar success in the Philippines where blast fishing using explosives to kill schools of fish has destroyed coral.
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director, Anna Marsden, said the research is an important step for the reef, but one that should not lessen the strong action needed against climate change.
“There is much more to be done, but this is definitely a great leap forward for the reef, and for the restoration and repair of reefs worldwide,” she said.
“It’s time to be bold and take some calculated risks because that’s the way we’ll make a change in how we can help restore our coral reefs.”
The team returned to Heron Island in November to collect further coral eggs and sperm for the next step in the project.
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