Preliminary ‘Coral IVF’ Trials Successful, Offer Hope For Damaged Great Barrier Reef

The process is one of a growing number of initiatives scientists are carrying out to help heal the reef and/or protect it from further damage.

Preliminary 'Coral IVF' Trials Successful, Offer Hope For Damaged Great Barrier Reef
Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock

The process is one of a growing number of initiatives scientists are carrying out to help heal the reef and/or protect it from further damage.

An experimental treatment known as “coral IVF” has proven to be effective in repairing some of the damage inflicted on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and potentially capable of an even more pronounced, widespread effect if scaled up.

Speaking to CNN, Southern Cross University (Australia) professor Peter Harrison said that the results of the preliminary tests have been encouraging and “exciting” so far, as the process “significantly increased” baby coral numbers in certain parts of the Great Barrier Reef, particularly Heron Island and One Tree Island, 18 months after laying millions of coral larvae in the areas. Warmer waters and bleaching have been a major problem for the Great Barrier Reef in recent years, as mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 resulted in the loss of about half its coral.

“There’s a very clear outcome, the higher the numbers of larvae that you put into the reef system, the more coral recruits you get,” Harrison observed.

“The pilot studies at small scales are giving us hope that we will be able to scale this up to much larger reef scales.”

As further noted by CNN, the coral IVF experiment was launched to help accelerate the repopulation process in the Great Barrier Reef and to aid its recovery from the aforementioned bleaching events. While the last Australian summer was relatively quiet, with coral bleaching far less common than it was in the two prior summers, researchers have warned that global warming could lead to bleaching events happening more frequently.

“The Great Barrier Reef, like many reefs around the world, has suffered from almost catastrophic loss of the coral community, and what this larval restoration hopes to do is to enable the process of coral community and therefore reef recovery to occur at much faster scales than would occur naturally,” Harrison told CNN, adding that further experiments will be carried out in the reef’s northern area later this year.

The coral IVF experiment is not the only initiative scientists are working on to help save the Great Barrier Reef from further damage. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, a team of researchers developed a biodegradable coral “sunscreen” that could work in the same way as regular sunscreen does on humans, reflecting up to 30 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet light, and keeping waters at a more ideal temperature, while keeping birds, fish, and other animals safe.

However, not everyone is convinced that these methods, specifically the newer coral IVF process, are practical or effective enough. CNN quoted James Cook University marine biology professor Sean Connolly, who believes that the aforementioned process might work if global climates are stabilized, but likely won’t, if climate change continues continues unabated.