Published on Friday, December 1, 2017

Great Barrier Reef undergoes 'IVF' treatment

A ground-breaking coral reef experiment, which has been dubbed 'the world's biggest IVF procedure', has given hope for a healthy future for the Great Barrier Reef.

A team led by marine scientist Professor Peter Harrison conducted an oversized 'fertility treatment' in which they reared larvae from recent spawning and replanted larvae on the reef on Heron Island.

The experiment was first trialled on a smaller scale a year ago using millions of microscopic sperm and eggs from last year's annual coral spawning event, which were placed into giant tanks for fertilisation.

"This is the first large-scale study of its kind and our research shows that we can help corals reproduce successfully by increasing larvae settling on the Great Barrier Reef and allowing them to develop into juvenile corals," said Professor Harrison.

"From our previous studies, we know that microscopic larvae, once settled, can grow into dinner plate size corals in just three years."

Early indications show promise that coral restoration on the Great Barrier Reef works and it can be upscaled in future to ensure its ongoing regeneration where it is most needed.

"If we can fast track coral growth and regeneration and apply this to other areas of the Reef, we hope to see larger areas of healthy coral that can be enjoyed by generations to come," Harrison added.

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