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Robots are Trained to Help Revive Coral Reefs

The Abrolhos Islands, located 40 miles off Western Australia's coast, are a unique marine environment. While they lack the typical tropical vegetation, the waters are teeming with vibrant coral and fish species. Corals, which are animals, play a crucial role in marine ecosystems. They provide habitats for over a quarter of marine species despite covering only 0.2% of the seafloor. However, rising ocean temperatures and acidification have made corals susceptible to diseases, leading to bleaching. Dr. Taryn Foster, a marine biologist, has witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. Predictions from the Global Coral Reel Monitoring Network suggest that a 1.5C increase in water temperature could result in a 70%-90% loss of the world's reefs. Dr. Foster is pioneering a method to rejuvenate reefs by grafting coral fragments onto plugs, which are then placed on the seabed. This innovative approach has shown promising results. Collaborating with Autodesk, Dr. Foster aims to use robots to automate some coral propagation processes. While challenges remain, such as the delicate handling of coral and the corrosive nature of saltwater on electronics, the potential benefits are significant. Other restoration methods, like coral seeding and the use of "super coral," are also being explored. One innovative approach involves using underwater audio recordings to assess reef health and playing healthy reef sounds to attract marine life and aid in reef recovery. Despite the challenges, experts remain hopeful about the future of coral restoration.

Photo Credit: NEOM

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