It is a scary world out there. The seas are rising. Polar bears are dying. The fish are disappearing, and the bees, and the… I need to lie down. But here is some good news: benevolent robots might just help us save the coral reefs.
The world’s coral reefs are among the world’s most vulnerable habitats right now. Oceans are growing warmer and also becoming more acidic, which spells disaster for environments like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which has been growing since the last Ice Age. About half of the Great Barrier died off during a mass coral bleaching event in 2016 and 2017. At this point, the seas need any savior they can get.
Robots to the rescue! Researchers at two Australian universities designed an underwater robot called the Larvalbot. It has, so far, delivered 100,000 baby corals to the Great Barrier Reef. And that’s just the beginning.
Peter Harrison, the director of the coral restoration project, explained to NBC News:
“The reduced number of corals means we’ve lost the ability for coral to provide enough larvae to settle and restore these communities quickly. The idea here is to use an automated technique that allows us to target delivery of the larvae into damaged reef systems and increase the efficiency that new coral communities can be generated.”
Those 100,000 baby corals were just the trial run. Future versions of the robot should be able to disperse millions of baby corals, which will seriously speed up the regrowth of damaged reefs.
Now that the microscopic baby corals are in place, researchers must wait six to nine months to see if they will thrive.