With oceans growing warmer and more acidic as a result of climate change, the world’s coral reefs are under siege. Recent research shows that the number of coral bleaching events has risen drastically in recent years, and in 2016 and 2017 about half of the coral making up Australia’s Great Barrier Reef died off.
“The reduced number of corals means we’ve lost the ability for coral to provide enough larvae to settle and restore these communities quickly,” said Peter Harrison, director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University and the leader of the coral restoration project. “The idea here is to use an automated technique that allows us to target delivery of the larvae into damaged reef systems and increase the efficiency that new coral communities can be generated.”
Harrison’s team recently tested LarvalBot at Vlasoff Reef, an outer part of the Great Barrier Reef along Australia’s northeastern coast. 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.