The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world, a vast coral reef of striking beauty that is rich in marine life. Yet this World Heritage Site is under pressure from climate change, poor water quality and fishing among other threats.
To help restore the marine habitat Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has revealed a world first, an undersea robot called LarvalBot that has dispersed microscopic baby corals (coral larvae) throughout the reef.
The little techno helper was developed by a team headed by QUT’s Professor Matthew Dunbabin and Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison. It won the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s $300,000 Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge and is a small-scale pilot project that could lead to a more ambitious exercise.
“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, said Professor Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University.
“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.”
Currently, LarvalBot can carry 100,000 coral larvae per mission but may soon be able to carry millions more. After the larvae is released it settles onto damaged parts of the reef and over time will develop into new coral polyps or baby corals.
For more information on larval release at the Great Barrier Reef check out the website of the Coral Larval Restoration project.