March 28, 2018

Scientists Use Sun Shield To Protect The Great Barrier Reef From Impending Demise

News Source: Tech Times

Author(s): Rubi Valdez

There is still hope in saving the Great Barrier Reef from an impending demise as conservationists invented a film-like shield to protect corals from the sun.

Previous marine studies indicate that the Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, has been categorized as being in a critical state. The world's largest coral reef system is already on the brink of destruction where thousands of underwater flora and fauna cohabitate.

However, researchers from the University of Melbourne and Australian Institute of Marine Science think they may have found a way to save the Great Barrier Reef. It's by deploying the so-called sun shield on the surface of ocean water.

The sun shield is a film-like material that is 50,000 times thinner than the human hair, which is designed to block harmful UV rays from penetrating into the reefs. The shield is made of biodegradable calcium carbonate, the same component present in corals.

The project was formally announced by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation through a press release published on March 27. Scientists said that the shield can block as much as 30 percent of the sunlight that penetrates the reef.

In Absence Of A Long-Term Solution

"The surface film provided protection and reduced the level of bleaching in most [coral] species," said Anna Marsden, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Marsden clarified that the sun shield is not a permanent or long-term solution to cover the 348,000 square kilometers of the Great Barrier Reef. However, the team is using the instrument to salvage high-risk or critically-endangered areas of the reef system.

"The concept needs more work and testing before it gets to that stage, but it's an exciting development at a time when we need to explore all possible options to ensure we have a Great Barrier Reef for future generations," Marsden said.

A study published in the journal Science in January this year concludes that there is limited time to save what is left from the Great Barrier Reef. Marine experts said that bleaching is happening more frequently than ever, giving the corals less time to heal.

In response, the United States announced that it is allotting a $1.6 million funding for projects related to the conservation and protection of the coral reefs.

This is not the first time that sun shields were deployed in the ocean. In 2013, the Obama administration donated $9 million to fund a project called "Resilient Coral Reefs Successfully Adapting to Climate Change" for four years. The program included sun shields in their list of activities.