Technology could bring colour back to corals

Kaleidoscope: The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 600 types of coral. © Alamy

Can we save the Great Barrier Reef? Scientists in Australia have found a way to protect coral reefs from the devastating effects of global warming by making them more heat resistant.

What’s happening

Below the turquoise water, over 9,000 species of creatures live surrounded by miles of spectacular coral. Two million people visit the Great Barrier Reef each year. It is the largest living thing on Earth, visible from space. But the whole ecosystem is under threat from rising sea temperatures.

Find out more

Corals around the world are in danger from bleaching. This process happens when water gets too warm. Algae that usually live in corals and provide them with food become stressed and leave. As a result, the colour fades from the corals and they starve.

Recently, global warming has made bleaching more common. In February, a marine heatwave caused mass bleaching across nearly 50% of the Great Barrier Reef.

One team in Melbourne has grown a new kind of heat-resistant algae. When injected into coral, the algae can handle warmer water. The team says that the manmade algae reveals more about how corals grow. They hope to use it to protect reefs around the world, and are now testing it on other types of coral.

Can we save the Great Barrier Reef?

Some say…

Yes! Until now, there were few ways we could protect the reefs from coral bleaching. Now, we know it isn’t too late to save the reefs. If we can protect the corals on the Great Barrier Reef, the millions of creatures that live in and around them will also be safe. The new algae could also be used to save other reefs across the globe from bleaching.

Others think…

Not like this. Protecting corals against heat is only half a solution. It does not solve the problem of the long-term global warming responsible for coral bleaching. If we want to save the reefs, we must fight climate change. That means cutting down on carbon emissions to stop rising sea temperatures. Any other solution is simply a temporary fix.

You Decide

  1. Is it wrong to interfere with nature while trying to save it?

Activities

  1. Create a poster for tourists in Australia, explaining about coral bleaching and raising awareness about the problem.

Some People Say...

“The sea is as near as we come to another world.”

Anne Stevenson, poet

What do you think?

Word Watch

Coral
Certain marine invertebrates (without a backbone, these ones have skeletons outside their bodies) living in large colonies. Their skeletons form huge structures called reefs.
Ecosystem
A community of interacting organisms and their environment.
Algae
A range of plants growing underwater.
Marine heatwave
A short period of unusually high sea temperatures caused by global warming.
Melbourne
A city in Victoria, Australia.

Subjects

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