STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Successful trial of 'coral IVF' gives hope for Australia's Great Barrier Reef

A coral fertility treatment designed to help heal damaged parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef is showing signs of...

Posted: Jun 8, 2018 11:33 AM
Updated: Jun 8, 2018 11:33 AM

A coral fertility treatment designed to help heal damaged parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef is showing signs of success and now needs to be scaled up to create a bigger impact, the lead scientist tells CNN.

Peter Harrison, a professor at Southern Cross University in Australia, said he is "excited by the results" which show the experimental process known as "coral IVF" is working on a small scale.

Recently returned from a trip to the reef, Harrison said his team managed to "significantly increase" the numbers of baby coral on reefs at Heron Island and One Tree Island, where they laid millions of coral larvae 18 months ago.

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

The 2,300km-long (1,500 miles) Great Barrier Reef -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- lost around half of its coral in the past few years after two mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, a pattern repeated on coral reefs around the world.

The bleaching occurs when warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change put major stress on coral organisms, turning them white. If they don't have time to recover, they eventually die.

The coral IVF project is designed to help reefs repopulate faster to help speed up the recovery time after a bleaching event.

In the most recent Australian summer, there was little or no coral bleaching, but scientists expect it to start happening with increasing frequency as the planet continues heating up.

The program is one of a number of experimental projects underway in Australia to try to find ways to save what's left of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In April, the Australian government announced a funding package of nearly $400 million (A$500 million) which will be spent on different projects working towards reef preservation and protection.

"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 said.

He adds that projects like his will help to keep different species of coral in existence "while working out how to deal with the loss of reefs and how to deal with climate change."

"The reality is that we know that the global political and financial system is not supportive of an immediate change in carbon emissions, so what we're facing is increasing stress on natural systems, and we can no longer afford to do nothing," Harrison said.

There are conflicting views among scientists on this sort of project. Critics argue that the money and resources would be better dedicated to finding ways to tackle climate change rather than focusing on small-scale projects.

"There are a range of views in the scientific community about whether these methods are worth trying," said Sean Connolly, a professor in marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville, and a co-author of a major report into coral bleaching and climate change.

"If we stabilize the climate then there's a chance these methods will work. If we don't stabilize the climate then I don't think they have a good chance of working," he added.

Harrison plans to do further similar experiments on a bigger scale in the northern area of the Great Barrier Reef later this year.

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 74°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 75°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 75°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 74°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 70°
Crawfordsville
Partly Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 75°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 75°
Comfortable weekend with a few spotty showers & t'showers...
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 771299

Reported Deaths: 14005
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1059471808
Lake570611031
Allen43193700
Hamilton37458426
St. Joseph37420568
Elkhart29819471
Tippecanoe23584231
Vanderburgh23431405
Porter19616327
Johnson18899394
Hendricks18168323
Clark13623199
Madison13604348
Vigo12908256
Monroe12626178
LaPorte12594225
Delaware11183198
Howard10747237
Kosciusko9810124
Hancock8799150
Bartholomew8296157
Warrick8150157
Floyd8072183
Grant7397181
Wayne7254201
Boone7236105
Morgan6948143
Marshall6358117
Dubois6301118
Cass6110112
Dearborn604078
Noble603590
Henry5971111
Jackson518677
Shelby512898
Lawrence4961127
Gibson467296
Montgomery461392
Clinton458455
DeKalb458485
Harrison456977
Huntington421382
Whitley418645
Steuben412861
Miami407273
Jasper402556
Knox393191
Putnam386862
Wabash371684
Adams355356
Ripley352771
Jefferson347187
White340954
Daviess3098100
Wells304881
Greene295985
Decatur293493
Fayette287464
Posey285435
Scott283458
LaGrange278472
Clay276049
Washington255637
Randolph248283
Jennings240449
Spencer239731
Fountain237250
Starke230859
Owen224759
Sullivan222943
Fulton209545
Jay203432
Carroll198822
Orange192756
Perry191939
Vermillion181944
Rush178627
Tipton173848
Franklin173035
Parke156816
Pike143434
Blackford138232
Pulaski124048
Newton123736
Benton110515
Brown106443
Crawford106316
Martin92715
Warren88015
Switzerland8488
Union73710
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events