Researchers Test ‘LarvalBot’ Drone That Can Help Rehabilitate Coral Reefs

The Queensland University of Technology has developed “LarvalBot,” an underwater drone that might be the key to saving the world’s coral reefs.

Conserving Coral Reefs

The negative effects of global warming are already vastly felt by creatures that thrive within the world’s oceans. In the past couple of years, coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, have seen a massive coral bleaching caused by unusually warm water.

Scientists fear that repeated coral bleaching events will kill corals that took years to grow. LarvalBot will aid in conserving these corals.

The process starts with scientists collecting coral spawns in which hundreds of millions of sperms and eggs released onto the water. The spawns are next reared into baby coral larvae inside controlled floating enclosures on the reef. Once developed, LarvalBot will deliver tiny baby coral larvae onto damaged reefs.

“We concentrate the larvae and put some of these into LarvalBot to gently squirt the larvae onto dead reef areas allowing it to settle and transform into coral polyps or baby corals,” explained Matthew Dunbabin, from the Institute for Future Environments.

Scientists plan to use LarvalBot on the damaged parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Later this month, the world’s largest coral reef system will be spawning and scientists believe that the drone will help speed up the recovery of affected ecosystems.

If successful, the surviving corals will grow and form new colonies. In about three years, the new corals will be able to reproduce by themselves.

Scientists estimate that with the help of LarvalBot, the new technique is up to 100 times better than previous methods. They aim to use three to four drones this month that will carry about 200,000 coral larvae each.

“This has the potential to revolutionize coral restoration on reefs worldwide,” added Peter Harrison.

Saving The Great Barrier Reef

In April this year, a report published in the scientific journal Nature reported that the corals of the Great Barrier Reef experienced a massive die-off following a marine heatwave that took place in 2016. Across the entire reef, Terry Hughes of the Arc Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies revealed that the natural wonder of the world lost 30 percent of its corals between March 2016 and November 2016.

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