Coral reefs are among the most diverse and biologically complex ecosystems in the world. Offering shelter to more than a quarter of all marine species, these ‘rainforests of the sea’ are essential for maintaining the health of our oceans.
Australian scientists have witnessed a 600 percent increase in coral recovery rates on certain sections of the great barrier reef, by simply “weeding” away macroalgae. Much like the weeding process in a garden, this project involved volunteer scientists meticulously removing macroalgae over a period of three years. Macroalgae, usually kept in check by healthy corals, grows unchecked when a part of the reef dies due to extreme weather events or coral bleaching. Thus, the removal of macroalgae gives corals a fighting chance to recover.
The results of this study show that expensive, high-tech solutions are not necessary for reef recovery efforts. Instead, it highlights the success of manual deseeding, encouraging even those countries lacking the resources to invest in high-tech solutions to consider this method for coral reef preservation. The team is now exploring other locations where this simple yet effective sea weeding technique could be beneficial. These include the Whitsunday islands in Australia, French Polynesia, Indonesia, and Singapore, all of which are grappling with the consequences of uncontrollable macroalgae growth on their coral reefs. The protection and restoration of these precious ecosystems are of utmost importance for the sustainability of marine life as well as human societies that depend on them.