Coral reefs around the world are feeling the heat from rising temperatures due to climate change and as a result, mass die-offs of the diverse environments are occurring everywhere. Scientists have been trying to determine how to best save coral as the impact of man-made climate changes continues.
One of those possible solutions, a ‘sun shield’ made from an ultra thin surface film is showing promise after small-scale trial tests.
The sun shield would keep corals shaded, fighting to protect it from coral bleaching. The sun shield is 50,000 times thinner than a human hair and completely biodegradable, containing the same ingredients corals use to make their hard skeleton, calcium carbonate.
The shield would sit on the surface of the waters above the corals, rather than directly on the corals, to provide an effective barrier against the suns rays.
The tests were performed on seven different types of corals in environments that mimicked coral bleaching at the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National Sea Simulator. The researchers found that the film layer reduced the light reaching the corals by up to 30% as the surface film provided protection and reduced the level of bleaching for most species.
The research was led by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with project support by The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, made possible through a grant to the University of Melbourne USA Foundation.
Although the research found that this method is possible to help coral reefs and reduce the impact of coral bleaching, it is important to note this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole Great Barrier Reef as it would not be practical. If deployed on a smaller, more local level, the film could be used to protect high value or high-risk areas of reefs.
The authors of the research did note that more concept work and testing needs to be done prior to deployment, but it is an exciting first step in exploring all possibilities to help the world’s coral reefs.