Mirrors and Salt Crystals Could Help Save the Great Barrier Reef

Scientists attempt to save the UNESCO World Heritage Site with innovative technology. 
Wednesday 8 August 2018
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland. Photo: Pixabay

Tourists who frolic the beaches and snorkel in the waters of the iconic Great Barrier Reef might find themselves in even hotter waters (literally).

Australia announced plans Friday to explore innovative and somewhat questionable concepts such as firing salt into clouds and covering swathes of water with a thin layer of film in a desperate attempt to save the embattled reef.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef, about the size of Japan or Italy, is still recovering from two consecutive years of bleaching as sea temperatures rise because of climate change.

While these measures may seem excessive, experts have warned that the 2,300-kilometre long area could have already suffered irreparable damage.

While the government has pledged to tackle climate change the greatest threat to the world’s largest living structure there has also been a push to explore shorter-term measures to buy the reef some time.

In January, Canberra offered AU$2.0 million to attract innovative ideas to protect the site, which is also under pressure from farming runoff, development and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish.

#StarfishesOfinstagram #SeastarsOfinstagram #Seastar #Starfish #CrownOfThornsStarfish ( #AcanthasterPlanci ) are beautiful, prickly and devastating creatures that have caused mass destruction on some of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs. Description: One of the most noticeable features of the crown-of-thorn starfish is their spines, which may be up to two inches long. These sea stars can be from 9 inches to up to 3 feet in diameter. They have 7-23 arms. These are colorful animals with a variety of color combinations. Advertisement: Skin colors include brown, gray, green or purple up to 2 inches long. Spine colors may include red, yellow, blue and brown. Despite their stiff appearance, crown-of-thorns starfish are surprisingly agile. Classification Kingdom: #AnimaliaSeria Phylum: #EchinodermataSeria Subphylum: #AsterozoaSeria Class: #AsteroideaSeria Superorder: #ValvataceaSeria Order: #ValvatidaSeria Family: #AcanthasteridaeSeria Genus: #AcanthasterSeria Species: #ArcanthasterPlanciSeria Habitat and Distribution #CrownOfThornsStarfishesSeria prefer relatively undisturbed waters, such as that found in lagoons and deeper water. It is a tropical species that lives in the Indo-Pacific Region, including in the #RedSeaAnimalsSeria, South Pacific, #JapaneseSeaAnimalsSeria and #AustralianSeaAnimalsSeria. In the U.S., they are found in #HawaiianSeaAnimalsSeria #indianOceanAnimalsSeria Feeding Crown-of-thorns starfish usually eat the polyps of hard, relatively fast-growing stony corals such as staghorn corals, but if food is scarce, they will eat other coral species. They feed by extruding their stomach out of their bodies and onto the coral reef, and then using enzymes to digest the coral polyps #SeastarsSeria #StarfishesSeria #PacificOceanAnimalsSeria #PacificOceanSeastarsSeria #PacificOceanStarfishesSeria #07December2017Seria #07DecemberSeria Thursday

A post shared by Hydrobiology (@hydrobiology21) on

Six schemes selected out of a total of 69 submissions will be tested to see if they are feasible.

One selected concept is cloud brightening, where salt crystals harvested from seawater are fired into clouds, making them more reflective and therefore deflecting solar rays back into space.

David Mead, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the idea might seem wacky but the proposal has real potential. He went on by explaining to ABC that they are currently looking to fire these minute ballistic bullets of salt “using a very fine nozzle to pump small droplets of salt water at the rate of several billion per second.”

“The water vaporises and you’re left with a salt particle which will float around, and if you can introduce those into the system you can increase the amount of sunlight reflected back.”

Another idea experts considered was a biodegradable “sun shield”, where an ultra-thin film containing light-reflecting particles covers some reef waters to protect corals from overcooking.

“The great thing about the film is it is only a molecule thick so you can swim straight through it and it’ll just keep self-forming,” Andrew Negri from the Australian Institute of Marine Science told the ABC.

Other short-listed projects include mass producing coral larvae with the aid of 3D-printed surfaces to support new growth, and large-scale harvesting and relocation of larvae.

With such a vast area of the reef to save from the blistering temperatures (and almost half already dead), experts must now consider methods of immense proportions to conserve this ocean treasure.

Desperate times call for desperate (and outlandish) measures.

Source: AFP Relaxnews