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This robot rethinks endangered reefs with heat-resistant corals Videos | Eco-business



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TClimate changes more quickly than many species can adapt, so that scientists try to accelerate evolution by promoting the spread of the creatures that can take the heat. Think of it as a natural section with a small impulse of humans-or, in some cases, robots.

For this reason, Australian scientists Peter Harrison and Matthew Dunbabin recently joined a world-class field experiment. A designed Dunbabin robot brought coral larvae that Harrison had collected and dispersed in a part of the Great Barrier Reef. What makes these larvae unique – and the most promising innovative experiment – is that they are heat-tolerant, which means that they can not only survive, but flourish, in warmer waters.

Harrison had collected the coral larvae that had survived the dead sea heat waves in 2016, 2017 and 2018. "These surviving larvae will probably have more ability to withstand thermal stress, as they survive and grow," he said Harrison, which means that a warmer world could thrive.

The pollution of fossil fuels warms the planet, causing ocean waters to be inhospitable for coral. Even in the most optimistic scenarios, virtually all the reefs in the world could be eradicated in the middle of the century. Ensuring the survival of these natural treasures will depend on the cultivation of more heat-tolerant corals. This is where the robot enters, called "LarvalBot".

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We call it the "Swiss army hook" of submarine robots, as it was designed to perform multiple tasks, such as photo surveys, water quality control, control and control of marine pests and now dispersion of coral larvae.

Matthew Dunbabin, creator, LarvalBot

"I first thought about the concept of larval restoration a few decades ago when I was part of the team that discovered the phenomenon of mass coral generation in the Great Barrier Reef in the early eighties," said Harrison, Director of the Center for Research in Marine Ecology at Southern Cross University. "Literally, billions of coral larvae are produced during mass-generation events from healthy corals, but as coral health and coverage have diminished to the point where there are too many larvae from the remaining coral populations, now we have to intervene to give nature a hand. "

Harrison had already developed techniques for mass-mass capture and larvae breeding, but "an aspect that he still wanted to develop beyond was a more efficient larval delivery process in damaged coral areas, so the LarvalBot concept It was developed from discussions with Matt. "

The robot has the ability to transport around 100,000 microscopic coral larvae by mission, and Dunbabin expects to increase up to millions. The robot gently releases the larvae in areas of damaged reefs that allow it to settle and, over time, develop into full crop corals.

"We called this" robot skeleton from a robot "of submarine robots, as it was designed to perform multiple tasks with customizable charging loads, such as photo surveys, water quality control, control and control of marine pests and now dispersion of coral larvae, "said Dunbabin, a professor of robotics at the University of Technology of Queensland.

"Using an iPad to program the mission, it sends a signal to deliver the larvae and LarvalBot pushes it gently," Dunbabin said. "It's like spreading fertilizers on the lawn. The robot is very intelligent, and as we move, we go to where we want to distribute the larvae so that new colonies can be formed and new coral communities can be developed." The robot has an on-board vision system that allows it to "see" its path through reef environments, he explained.

"We will control the survival and growth of juvenile corals as they appear in the" reef, "said Harrison. "We will begin to see youth corals after about 9 months when they grow large enough to become visible to the" reef. "

Later this spring, researchers plan to send the robot – with more larvae – to degraded reefs in the Philippines, and then aim at an even bigger project in the Great Barrier Reef at the end of 2019.

One of the advantages of the robot is that it can also control the growth of coral reefs, which will help scientists understand how they respond to the delivery of larvae. This will be essential for expanding the process. "We need to learn to restore corals and reefs on larger scales very quickly," Harrison said. "During my life I have witnessed the continuing degradation of reefs around the world, including parts of the Great Barrier Reef. This is incredibly sad and frustrating."

Dunbabin was in agreement. "Coral reefs are spectacular! Even now when I get to the water and I see all the fish and colors, I'm still afraid of these eco-cities connected lives," he said. "I can not help feeling that I have to do something to help them restore them."

This story has been published with permission from Nexus Media.

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