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Wed Apr 15, 2020, 07:58 AM

Ecosystem Collapse Has Arrived For Coral; Growing Desperation In Various Plans To Rescue The GBR

The Great Barrier Reef is in the midst of its third mass-bleaching event in the last five years. This year’s heat-induced bleaching—which occurs during the region’s summer season—is more severe than the previous two, with 25 percent of the reefs experiencing widespread bleaching. At this point, over 15 percent of the world’s largest reef system has turned a ghostly, skeletal white.

We stand at the very beginning of a long fight for the survival of coral. “Even if we stopped emitting CO2 today, the ocean would still get warmer for 30 to 40 years,” Stephen Palumbi, a coral researcher and professor of biology at Stanford University, told me. “It’s hard to conclude anything but that this ecosystem is in serious trouble.” As the ecosystem becomes more and more unstable, possible solutions become scarcer and increasingly expensive. High-tech measures like geoengineering, assisted evolution, and robot-assisted reproduction are quickly turning into scientists’ best bets.


Before the 2016-2017 bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, the consensus among scientists was that those Pacific reefs wouldn’t require drastic technological solutions in order to be preserved. Now, out of necessity, the attitude has become closer to that of Silicon Valley than traditional science. Governments and private entities like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s charity foundation and the United Arab Emirates have poured billions of dollars into speculative initiatives to save coral reefs. While we’ve all heard about proposals like cloud-seeding or sun-shading floated as theoretical countermeasures to climate change, in the field of coral, many experts believe that the time to move forward with these risky geoengineering solutions is already here. In Australia, scientists tinker with creating new species of coral at the $25 million National Sea Simulator, using age-old plant domestication techniques and cutting-edge gene editing tools alike. An experimental program called assisted evolution brings corals into the lab and exposes them to heat gradually, creating coral that can survive under temperature stress for three times as long as the average coral.

While acknowledging the ethical implications of genetic engineering, Line Bay, a coral geneticist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told Science magazine that delaying work on these proposals may leave the world unable to protect coral reefs in the future. “The worst thing that we could do is ignore genetic engineering because it’s frightening for some people, and then get 10 or 15 years down the road and realize it’s the only option,” Bay said. Other proposals include geoengineering, such as spraying saltwater into the clouds to reflect more sunlight and dim the sun over the reefs. Another option involves countering ocean acidification—a side-effect of the oceans absorbing ever-greater amounts of carbon dioxide—by planting a massive amount of seagrass to turn seawater more alkaline. And the Australian government has already started funding the use of giant underwater fans to bring cooler water up to the surface.



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Reply Ecosystem Collapse Has Arrived For Coral; Growing Desperation In Various Plans To Rescue The GBR (Original post)
hatrack Apr 2020 OP
Vogon_Glory Apr 2020 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Wed Apr 15, 2020, 11:37 AM

1. Global Warming denial and collapsing reef

Ecosystems: Rupert Murdoch’s gift to the land of his birth.

What a legacy!

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