LarvalBot, an underwater robot previously used to eliminate invasive species in coral reefs, has been repurposed to deliver 100,000 baby corals to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
The underwater robot has dispersed microscopic baby corals (coral larvae) to help scientists working to repopulate parts of the Great Barrier Reef during this year’s mass coral spawning event.
Tourism and pollution have contributed to the Great Barrier Reef’s increasingly rapid decline, but climate change is the main reason. Rising sea temperatures cause the reef’s coral to expel the algae living in its tissue and turn completely white. As the algae provides the coral with approximately 90 percent of its energy, this process – known as coral bleaching – is pretty disastrous for life on the reef.
In 2016 and 2017 about half of the coral making up Great Barrier Reef died off.
With a current capacity to carry around 100,000 coral larvae per mission and plans to scale up to millions of larvae, LarvalBot gently releases the larvae onto damaged reef areas allowing it to settle and over time develop into coral polyps or baby corals.
LarvalBot was developed by a team headed by Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Matthew Dunbabin and Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison.
The robot was deployed for the first time on Vlasoff Reef, near Cairns in North Queensland.
In the trial run, the submersible dispersed 100,000 baby specimens derived from corals that survived the bleaching event of 2016-17, which are believed to be especially tolerant of warmer ocean temperatures.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea