Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard at least something about the ongoing issues of our world’s coral reefs. Luckily for our oceans, the future is looking bright (or shaded), after scientists recently developed a “spray-on umbrella” to prevent coral bleaching! Here’s a quick summary in case you’re lost on what coral bleaching is and why it’s so important to prevent.
Coral bleaching is caused by either pollution or fluctuations in water temperature due to climate change (it’s commonly caused by warming waters). Coral bleaching is when the algae living in the coral’s tissue is ejected due to this change, causing the coral to turn white. The coral is subject to excess stress when this occurs, and if the algae does not return shortly, the coral will die.
This “spray-on umbrella” could help prevent large bleaching events on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Scientists are currently trialing this new liquid, which would be sprayed on the surface of the water above vulnerable coral reefs and would protect them from harmful visible and UV light. The spray is about 50,000 times thinner than a human hair and is composed of calcium carbonate (the same thing corals use to make their skeletons) and lipids—all naturally found in the ocean, making the spray biodegradable! Andrew Negri, a marine biologist working on the spray stated, “It is white so it reflects and scatters all the light which hits the ocean surface.” Trials showed that the spray helped reduce 20 percent of light that reached the coral, and that the spray will eventually be broken up by wave moments, sink to the bottom, and degrade.
Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden stated, “It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef.” The goal of this spray-on umbrella is aimed at protecting valuable coral reefs at high risk of bleaching on those super-hot days. There will be more trials with the spray before it is tested in a real-world environment, and with 50% of coral already lost on the Great Barrier Reef, let’s hope those trials come sooner than later!
So how can we prevent coral bleaching and save our reefs?
WELL, there’s surprisingly a lot you can do that’s not as intense as dedicating your life to creating the world’s thinnest umbrella. You’d be amazed how the smallest changes can truly affect our planets health. Here are 3 easy ones to start with:
- CONSERVE WATER! It’s such a simple concept, yet we take advantage of it so often! Set a different goal for yourself each week, such as not going over 10-minute long showers. Less water used means less runoff and waste water ending up in our oceans, two major causes of bleaching.
- KNOW WHAT YOU PUT ON YOUR LAWN! Although you may be living across the world from a coral reef, you’d be shocked by how the chemicals on your lawn make their way into our water systems. Opt for more environmentally friendly lawn products instead, which work just as well!
- DECREASE YOUR PLASTIC USE! About 8 million metric tons of the world’s plastic end up in the ocean. There is a reusable option for almost ANYTHING nowadays, and not only does it save you money, it also saves our oceans from trash. Challenge yourself this month, and maybe cut out all plastic water bottles, straws, or even plastic wraps (Bee’s Wrap offers great natural alternatives for food storage that’ll last you the year)!
Check out this article on the Our Positive Planet blog on how to reduce plastic use while food shopping!
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