In 2016 and 2017, marine heat waves killed half of the corals in the Great Barrier reef. It takes ten years for the coral to recover.
John Veron is the world’s top coral reef expert.
Between a quarter and a third of all marine species everywhere has some part of their life cycle in coral reefs. Losing the coral reefs will cause a third to a quarter of all marine species gets wiped out.
In the summer of 2018, experts say no bleaching occurred.
Veron predicts there will be mass bleaching of coral reefs around the world in five years out of every seven.
There is also ocean acidification and a loss of oxygen. So warming is just part of the problem.
Geoengineering and other mitigation is being funded by Australia
The Commonwealth and Queensland governments have announced funding for feasibility projects aimed at manipulating surface water temperatures using three different techniques:
* Creating a reflective surface film that would float on the surface of the water. Made from calcium carbonate (the same mineral as coral), the film would reflect sunlight, thereby lowering water temperatures and ultraviolet radiation exposure.
A half a bucket of calcium carbonate to protect an entire hectare of coral reef. The film-forming component needs less than a teaspoon of material to keep that carbonate at the surface of the ocean.
* Marine cloud brightening to also reflect more sunlight away from the reef. The plan is to spray microscopic salt particles into clouds using customised vessels or modified snow machines. This increases the concentration of droplets in clouds and encourages smaller, more reflective droplets to form.
A very fine nozzle to pump small droplets of salt water at the rate of several billion per second. Clouds to reflect heat are formed.
Trial to start on reef restoration project this summer on water mixing
A machine that mixes water on the reef is another solution being put forward.
Suzanne Long from the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre said a slow turning impeller would mix water vertically to lower its temperature.
Water-mixing units with large, slow moving fans that will draw cool water from 10-30 meters deep and deliver it to surface areas to limit coral heat stress. In 2017 this proposal received A$2.2 million in Commonwealth funding, to test eight water-mixing units over a 1km square area of Moore Reef, off the coast of Cairns.
Rob Giason from the Reef Restoration Foundation talked about the coral nursery project. Small pieces of coral being suspended from a tree-like structure under water — is set to almost double in size after initial signs of success.
He said the project involved resilient coral growing on the trees being replanted onto damaged reefs.
“We’re very encouraged by what we see. We started with around 24 corals and within seven months we’re up to about 400,” Mr Giason said.
69,000 people are employed by industries associated with the Great Barrier Reef. Fisheries provide hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue while tourism based on the Reef is estimated to provide around $6 billion each year. Maintaining coral cover on the Reef, indeed any reef, is extremely important.
The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing approximately $200 million annually in the Reef’s health.
They are seeking innovative solutions to quickly restore the ecological functions provided by the Great Barrier Reef.
Six innovators are sharing in over $1 million to commence projects in the Feasibility stage of the SBIR program. A further $1 million is available to develop the best solutions through the subsequent Proof of Concept stage.