Researchers said Tuesday they have tested an ultra-thin biodegradable protective film that could help protect the Great Barrier Reef from bleaching. This Australian UNESCO World Heritage gem in 1981, which attracts millions of tourists each year, stretches over approximately 348,000 square kilometres along the Australian coast and is the largest coral reef in the world.
The Great Barrier, however, has undergone several unprecedented episodes of coral bleaching, a phenomenon due to warmer water temperatures as a result of climate change, as per Europe1.
50,000 times finer than a human hair
Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Biology have been encouraged by their trials of a solar film 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. It is made of calcium carbonate, which forms the base of the coral skeletons.
"It was designed to float on the water above the corals rather than being placed directly on the corals, to provide an effective sun barrier," said Anna Marsden, executive director of the Foundation of the Great barrier reef. The protective film reduces whitening for most species and decreases the received sunlight by 30 percent, as per Europe1.
Four serious bleaching episodes
"With this project, we have been able to test the idea that by reducing sunlight levels that reach the corals from the outset, we can prevent them from stressing, which leads to bleaching," she added.
According to Europe1, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has experienced four serious bleaching events since 1998, including two in a row in 2016 and 2017 that caused extensive damage. Because of its dependence on fossil energy and its small population, Australia is considered one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita on the planet.