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Coral IVF May Save Great Barrier Reef From Dying: Here's How It Works

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Scientists have tagged coral IVF, or in-vitro fertilization for corals, as a promising way to help save the Great Barrier Reef from dying.

A recent report claimed that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has died five times over the past 30,000 years but was able to revive itself each time. A sixth death, however, may permanently take it down due to the rate of climate change.

There is now a race against time to save the Great Barrier Reef. Coral IVF is one of the many initiatives with that goal, but so far, it might have the best chance of reaching it.

Coral IVF Shows Promise In Saving Great Barrier Reef

A coral fertility treatment that was designed to help in healing damaged areas on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is showing promising signs of success, according to the lead scientist of the study.

Peter Harrison, the director of Southern Cross University's Marine Ecology Research Centre, is "excited by the results" that show the success of coral IVF on a small scale. He said that his team was able to "significantly increase" the baby coral reefs population at Heron Island and One Tree Island using coral IVF.

For coral IVF, the scientists used a process similar to what is done in human IVF. In a yearly coral spawning event, the team collected millions of coral eggs and sperm, which they then grew into coral larvae before redistributing them to the reef. The team deposited millions of coral larvae at Heron Island and One Tree Island 18 months ago.

With this process, the scientists improved the chances that coral will latch onto the reef, instead of leaving the floating spawn to do it by themselves.

According to Harrison, he drew inspiration from fellow scientists in the Philippines who have been successful with coral IVF in the recovery of coral reefs damaged by dynamite fishing.

How To Save The Great Barrier Reef

Harrison said that the coral IVF project will need to be scaled up to create a bigger impact on saving the Great Barrier Reef.

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

Harrison's program will not be alone, though, with Australia's government allotting $500 million for initiatives to save the Great Barrier Reef. Other projects focused on saving the reef include a film-like shield that provides protection for the corals from the sun and laboratory-bred "super corals" that are more tolerant to climate change and global warming.

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