Great Barrier, Great Barrier Reef, Rebecca Albright discussed on Forum

KQED Radio
| KQED Radio


Ninety percent decline in new baby. Coral settling on the reef. Joining us as Earth Day to talk about the state of coral reefs worldwide and the research on coral reproduction being done right here in San Francisco's Rebecca Albright's. He's curator of invertebrate, so Allah, she at the California academy of sciences and welcome to the program. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. How day happier. Stay to you. And coral reefs are something that I know like me many of our listeners are very concerned with and so I wanna talk about them with you, generally. But I also wanna talk about the Great Barrier. Reef because this article appeared in nature, and we jump on things like this about all the bleaching that went on there that caused a lot of adult coral reefs the die, but also a decline in the new corals, and that's what's causing. Some real concern seems to be are we talking about climate change here? Yeah. Absolutely. I think one of the one of the biggest worries at this point with the projections for the future of coral reefs is the frequency that. We're seeing these global mass bleaching events occur. The Great Barrier. Reef is obviously one of the most iconic systems in the world. It's the largest barrier. Reef that we have it's over twenty three hundred kilometers long, and you can see it from outer space, and the fact that we could have something catastrophic happened to a system that large and such a short period of time is really sobering. To a lot of us in the coral reef community and the general public at large. So the we have had three global mass bleaching events that have happened. The first one was in nineteen ninety eight the second one was in twenty ten and the third one started in twenty fourteen and reach with the cyclones who let the twenty fourteen one twenty fourteen was a series of cyclones twenty fourteen and twenty fifteen and then on the Great Barrier. Reef it was slammed by back toback leaching events in twenty sixteen and twenty seventeen and one of the biggest concerns was that. We've we've S it's estimated we lost about fifty percent of quarrels over the last thirty years, but the Great Barrier Reef that twenty three hundred kilometers. Later system about two thirds of that was impacted in a series of two years. We've never seen change like that. And that was it was alarming and and sobering. And the study that you're referring to is a follow up study after these back to back leaching events that said, you know, what if we're losing a third of our quarrels in that system over a period of a couple of years, what does that do to future populations to reproduction, and the concerning thing we're seeing is a plummet in the amount of reproduction and recruitment that happens in that system, which is obviously the next generation of quarrels and implicates recovery dynamics over the next decades. Plus, the corals are so integral to biodiversity in so necessary for for well, all kinds of industries fishery industry, obviously. But also well tourism, I mean, we're talking about the Great Barrier. Reef and the possibility of losing billions of dollars if this too big to fail. Reef actually goes down. And this is not just a canary in coal mine. This is the canary in the coal mine for so many the ecosystems, and I think there's really important emphasis here that needs to be placed on how singularly significant this is not only the environmentalist. But for all of us, we're talking let's talk a little bit about bleaching. No what happens with this. They lose their color, but they can they can recover though. It takes in some instances about a decade and as far as the Great Barrier. Reef, my understanding is most of this is in the north, but the south not so much cracked. So in the the most recently Shing event, the twenty sixteen twenty seventeen the upper two thirds of the system was impacted by that. So we have the northern grape area from the central Great Barrier. Reef that was impacted the southern grey reef actually, fared pretty well in those events in. So in these the study that you reference with the recruitment that area looks like it's really healthy right now. But one of the problems is that the current off the east coast of stray flow north to south and so the the potential for. That southern healthy part of the Great Barrier. Reef to repopulate the northern parts is very low. And so how are we going to get the northern two-thirds back as the concern right now? I want to the figure just so people know we're talking about a four and a half billion dollar economy boost to the trillion economy that's tied to the Great Barrier. Reef absolutely in globally coral resear- estimated to bring it around four hundred billion dollars a year and ecosystem services, and that's through fisheries tourism supporting scuba diving coastal protection, it's estimated than an intact area of reef actually mitigates ninety seven percent of wave energy in terms of of protecting human livelihoods in coastal infrastructure. So these ecosystems are offering us unparalleled. Ecosystem services that we were risk losing right now. And they're like the rainforest of the ocean. I mean, people have to get step with just how important they are in violation and this Assyria and they're also beautiful. I mean, just statically to talk about every talking with Rebecca Albright who is curator of invertebrates zoology, the California academy of sciences, and is about really we're talking about the world's coral reefs and the Great Barrier. Reef in efforts to restore them. Let's go to restoration because some pretty exciting things going on reading about robots and three D things. And you've been working in your lab over California academy with essentially. Seeing to it that different ways restoration could take place who changing the reproduction. My understanding is that you've got reproduction going on with about once a year now, and you're trying to work at two are twice a year. How does that figure? Yeah. So right now at the California academy we have initiative color hope for reefs, and we're doing a bunch of different things. But one of them is to try to understand how to facilitate this reproductive cycle. How do we get more quarrels onto the faster and corals most quarrels usually only spawn reproduce sexually once a year, and that's really limiting in terms of trying to help population recover from damage in. So one of the ways that we do this is by partnering with nonprofits called C core which stands for sexual reproduction in the field. We actually go out during that annual event, and we collect eggs and sperm. We bring him back into the lab, we fertilize them. And then we grow out baby corals and plant them back onto the reef and something we're doing here in San Francisco where we don't. Have proximate. Coral reefs is actually trying to spine quarrels in the lab. And it's really exciting because it's something that's only been dying a couple of places in the world. And we're the first place in the US to do it. And so what we have to do because it only happens. Once a year is mimic this hierarchy of environmental cues that trigger or illicit this reproductive this annual reproductive event. And that includes mimicking seasonal cycles changes in surface temperature throughout the year. We have to mimic lunar phases. New moons and Fomin sunrises and sunsets. To try to get these organisms to spine. And we've done this two years in a row now, which is really exciting. And the hope is moving forward that we could create a couple of these systems in stagger them. So that we have spining several times a year, and that gives us more opportunities for research and more opportunities for restoration needs to be done on a massive scale because we're suffering massive leaching around the world and climate change is not the only. Factor. Pollution is also very much. Let's talk about what I mentioned before the robots in the three D printing to help out. Yeah. There's a lot, you know, it's funny because a couple years ago after these catastrophic events, I would get asked a lot. How do you maintain any semblance of optimism and this and that was a really hard answer to question question answer at the time. And now, it's it's actually I do have a lot of hope because I mean, there's this saying that necessity is is the is the the merchant benching. That's where we are wrangling should wills virtue. Yeah. That's where we are in. So we're turning towards integrating tech solutions. And so there's a lot of ideas around right now, we're trying to three d print substrates that are self stabilizing. So that we can see seed them with baby corals and throw them out onto reefs. They they sink down to the ocean floor in their self Sabe lies in his one way to scale these restoration efforts using robotics underwater, drones to outland these things there's all sorts of where we're starting to work at that interface between disciplines which is is looking very promising right now, it's good to hear. Because a lot of the projections of said, they could be gone by twenty fifty at the present rate that they're going and let me hear from our listeners on this. We're talking with Rebecca Albright. She's curator of Inver race zoology at the kademi science here in California academy science, you can give us a call. Let us know your thoughts are any questions you might have. And you can do that. Now at our toll.

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