Researchers in Australia have developed an underwater robot that could help repopulate damaged sections of the Great Barrier Reef.Gary Cranitch / Queensland Museum / Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Dec. 22, 2018 / 4:59 AM CST
By Denise Chow
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.
But researchers at two Australian universities have developed an underwater robot that could help turn the tide in the ongoing struggle to save at-risk reefs. The briefcase-size submersible, dubbed LarvalBot, is designed to move autonomously along damaged sections of reef, seeding them with hundreds of thousands of microscopic baby corals.
“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.”