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Underwater robot delivers baby coral to stricken reef

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on January 28, 2019 - Duration: 01:28s

Underwater robot delivers baby coral to stricken reef

Conservationists in Australia are using a semi-autonomous underwater robot to 'deliver' baby coral to damaged areas of the Great Barrier Reef.

Matthew Stock reports.

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Underwater robot delivers baby coral to stricken reef

This aquatic robot has a very important delivery to make.

Called LavalBot, it's carrying thousands of coral larvae (LAR-VEE) collected from a healthy reef during a mass spawning event, like this.

With a pre-programmed route, the robot was deployed recently to a site on the Great Barrier Reef damaged by bleaching.

When in position, the human operator triggers a release of coral larvae in a bid to restore the stricken reef.

PROFESSOR MATTHEW DUNBABIN, QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY (QUT), SAYING: "LavalBot is an autonomous robot.

It acts like a crop duster under water; it actually has a bladder full of coral larvae that we've been rearing over the last week.

And as it swims along we can target where we want to distribute that to the areas that are needed.

The idea being that we will create new coral reefs that have been previously damaged by bleaching and other events." Scientists are now monitoring the progress of settled baby corals with plans to refine the technique before scaling up.

LavalBot's current capacity is around 100,000 coral larvae per mission, but the team says they want to increase it to millions.

Covering 348,000 square kilometres, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living ecosystem, home to hundreds of species of fish.

Bleaching occurs when rising seawater temperatures force coral to expel living algae, causing it to calcify and turn white.

Mildly bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops, otherwise it may die.

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