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About Great Barrier Reef

Context:

Scientists working on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have successfully trialled a new method for freezing and storing coral larvae they say could eventually help rewild reefs threatened by climate change.

Relevance:

Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Environmental Pollution and Degradation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Great Barrier Reef
  2. About Coral Reefs
  3. What does the new report say?

Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef, located in the Coral Sea (North-East Coast), off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the world’s most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps which are tiny, soft-bodied organisms and their base which is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, forms the structure of coral reefs.
  • It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.

About Coral Reefs

  • Indonesia has the largest coral reef area in the world and the Great Barrier Reef of the Queensland coast of Australia is the largest aggregation of coral reefs.
  • India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Chagos have the maximum coral reefs in South Asia.
  • Coral Reefs protect humanity from natural calamities acting as a barrier, provide revenue and employment through tourism and recreation and also provide habitats for fishes, starfish and sea anemones.
  • Coral blocks are used for buildings and road construction, the lime supplied by corals is used in cement industries and coral reefs may also be used in jewellery.
  • India has four coral reef areas:
    • Gulf of Mannar,
    • Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
    • Lakshadweep islands
    • Gulf of Kutch.

Risks and threats to coral reefs

  • Due to anthropogenic activities such as coastal development, destructive fishing methods and pollution from domestic and industrial sewage.
  • Due to increased sedimentation, over-exploitation and recurring cyclones.
  • Coral diseases such as black band and white band due to infectious microorganisms introduced by the human population that live on the coastal regions.

Mesh technology

  • Cryogenically, frozen coral can be stored and later reintroduced to the wild but the current process requires sophisticated equipment including lasers.
  • Scientists say a new lightweight “cryomesh” can be manufactured cheaply and better preserves coral.
  • In a December lab trial, the world’s first with Great Barrier Reef coral, scientists used the cryomesh to freeze coral larvae at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS).
  • The coral had been collected from the reef for the trial, which coincided with the brief annual spawning window.
  • The cryomesh was previously trialled on smaller and larger varieties of the Hawaiian corals. A trial on the larger variety failed.
  • Trials are continuing with larger varieties of Great Barrier Reef coral.
  • The mesh technology, which will help store coral larvae at -196°C (-320.8°F), was devised by a team from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.

-Source: The Hindu


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