In something that seems out of a sci-fi movie, an environmental group is looking to repair the Great Barrier Reef in Australia by using electricity to accelerate coral growth.
As first reported by New Scientist, the group will be using a method called Reef Ecologic and will conduct a test trial to see if the technique will work. The technology uses steel frames and passing electricity through them to stimulate the growth of coral.
This is not the first time the technology has been used as the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and South Easia Asia Sea has all seen electrical stimulation to boost coral health.
The low-voltage direct current interacts with the minerals in the seawater and causes solid limestone to grow on the structure. The technology calls on the principles of electrolysis, where the electric current causes a chemical reaction to occur which wouldn’t happen without the added boost.
The first trial is already taking place along the Great Barrier Reef around 60 miles north of Cairns. This area was one of the most negatively impacted by coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017 where more than 50% of reef was lost.
The death of the coral comes from bleaching which takes when warmer water temperatures cause corals to expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.
The currents involved in biorock technology are not harmful to humans or any marine organisms but the technology does face challenges. Running low-voltage power to open ocean is extremely challenging although solar and tidal power has allowed for the growth of the technology.
While we are very hopeful of the outcome that the system may have in helping to restore coral reefs around the world, there is very little evidence to show the effectiveness. One thing is for certain, we will be excitingly waiting the results in hope that the results will help coral.