New growth for the Great Barrier Reef!
It is an exciting time for the Great Barrier Reef, as for the first time researchers have accelerated the formation of new coral colonies in small areas of the Reef using ‘baby corals’ conceived and successfully settled directly on the Reef through a pioneering pilot project funded by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The discovery comes from the same scientist who co-discovered the phenomenon of “sex on the Reef”- mass coral spawning – approx 30 years ago.
“This is the first project of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef to successfully re-establish a population of juvenile corals from larvae settling directly on the reef,” said Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison, lead researcher on the project.
“This pilot study carried out on Heron Island shows that our new techniques to give corals a helping hand to conceive and then settle, develop and grow in their natural environment can work on the Great Barrier Reef.
“The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef but has potential global significance – it shows we can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been compromised.
The study started in the coral spawning in November 2016 when Professor Harrison and his team travelled to Heron Island for the first trial. Large quantities of coral eggs and sperm were collected and used to grow more than a million coral larvae. The larvae was then distributed onto patches on the Reef in underwater mesh tents. On return 8 months later the team discovered more than 100 surviving juvenile corals had established settlement tiles on the Reef.
“The results are very promising and our work shows that adding higher densities of coral larvae leads to higher numbers of successful coral recruits,” Professor Harrison said.
The project was achievable through the donation to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation from former chairman of Goldman Sachs, Australia and New Zealand , Stephen Fitzgerald.
Working with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation board for many years, I’ve seen firsthand what’s been happening with our Reef, and reefs around the world, facing such adversity from the impacts of climate change,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“When I heard about the amazing success Peter was having with his work, I knew I had to help get it happening on the Great Barrier Reef so we could prove the concept would work on the world’s largest and greatest coral reef, our $56 billion natural wonder,” he said.
“It’s wonderful to have another tool in the arsenal for our Great Barrier Reef,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden agreed.
“We’re increasingly looking to innovations like larval ‘reseeding’ to help coral reefs rebuild and adapt so they can live through everything the world is throwing at them and survive into the future.
“It’s time to be bold and take some calculated risks because that’s the way we’ll make a step change in how we can help restore our coral reefs.
“I’m confident that we have some of the best and brightest minds working on solutions for the Great Barrier Reef right now and it’s a great result that the Foundation has brought together the expertise of Professor Harrison’s Southern Cross University team and the philanthropic leadership of Stephen Fitzgerald to create this advance for the Reef.
“It’s also important to keep in mind that restoration options like this don’t lessen the need for strong action to reduce the major drivers of reef decline being climate change, water quality and pest management.
“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 world-wide.”
JellyFish Bedding and Mattresses hopes to be able to continue that restoration and repair of the Great Barrier Reef and donates a percentage of every mattress sale to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.