Coral sun shield

Ultra-thin sun shield

The recent press announcement of a scientifically developed coral sun-shield is a potential game changer and a real glimmer of hope for the dying Great Barrier Reef. Scientists are currently investigating a number of possible solutions including genetic modification & cultivation of super-symbionts and these are discussed in an earlier post:

As is already appreciated, the health of the reef is in jeopardy as unprecedented coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017 has decimated the reef by two-thirds – approximately 1500 kilometres of reef.*

While testing is still in its infancy, a thin biodegradable sun blocking film developed to lie on the surface of the water is able to effectively block up to 30 per cent of sunlight. This approach, rather than altering the coral itself is proven an effective barrier against the sun. The GBRF or Great Barrier Reef Foundation in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have successfully tested the molecule thick shield on seven coral varieties in a simulated bleaching event at AIMS National Sea Simulators (SeaSims). Calcium carbonate, the material that makes up a coral’s hard skeleton is also an ingredient in the biodegradable film that is 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. The project is funded by Tiffany & Co. Foundation and is set up to discover new ways to reduce the impact of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
The team points out that, in this context, it can be seen as a solution for small scale higher risk regions of the reef rather than a ‘fix’ for the whole of the 348,000 square kilometres of the reef.

thin surface film on water effectively blocks up to 30% of sunlight

*Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University.

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