Cloud brightening, 'sun shields' to save Barrier Reef

2018-07-23 13:43
This file photo taken on September 22, 2014 shows tourists looking at coral through a glass-bottomed boat on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. (William West, AFP)

This file photo taken on September 22, 2014 shows tourists looking at coral through a glass-bottomed boat on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. (William West, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Australia announced plans last Friday to explore concepts such as firing salt into clouds and covering swathes of water with a thin layer of film in a bid to save the embattled Great Barrier Reef.

The Unesco World Heritage-listed reef, about the size of Japan or Italy, is reeling from two straight years of bleaching as sea temperatures rise because of climate change.

Experts have warned that the 2 300km long area could have suffered irreparable damage.

While the government has pledged to tackle climate change – the greatest threat to the world's largest living structure – there has also been a push to explore shorter-term measures to buy the reef some time.

Canberra in January offered Aus$2m ($1.5m) to attract innovative ideas to protect the site, which is also under pressure from farming runoff, development and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish.

'Sun shield'

Six schemes selected out of a total of 69 submissions will be tested to see if they are feasible.

One selected concept is cloud brightening where salt crystals harvested from seawater are fired into clouds, making them more reflective and therefore deflecting solar rays back into space.

David Mead, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the idea might seem wacky but the proposal has real potential.

"The team have been looking at using a very fine nozzle to pump small droplets of salt water at the rate of several billion per second," he told national broadcaster ABC.

"The water vaporises and you're left with a salt particle which will float around, and if you can introduce those into the system you can increase the amount of sunlight reflected back."

Another idea was a biodegradable "sun shield", where an ultra-thin film containing light-reflecting particles covers some reef waters to protect corals from heat stress.

"The great thing about the film is it is only a molecule thick so you can swim straight through it and it'll just keep self-forming," Andrew Negri from the Australian Institute of Marine Science told the ABC.

Other short-listed projects include mass producing coral larvae with the aid of 3D-printed surfaces to support new growth, and large-scale harvesting and relocation of larvae.

The experimental commissions came as Canberra said last Friday it was updating its $1.48bn "Reef 2050" plan – first unveiled in 2015 – to protect the reef, with further measures to improve water quality.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    australia  |  marine life

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.