Giant ‘shade cloths’ could be used to save coral from climate change

By RTCC Staff

Giant floating shade cloths could be placed over coral reefs to slow the warming of oceans, according to new research.

Scientists say buoyant umbrellas could help reduce the extent of coral bleaching – shielding it from the light which exacerbates the effects of heat stress.

The oceans act as a huge carbon sink, but as a result of absorbing vast quantities of CO2 acidity levels are rising, which in turn kills coral reefs.

Could floating shade cloths help reduce coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef (Source: eutrophication&hypoxia/Creative Commons)

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute warns that current trends would see atmospheric carbon dioxide increase more than 80% by 2050.

The expected resultant rise in ocean temperatures and acidity could leave marine species unable to survive, he says.

In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, Hoegh-Guldberg and fellow researchers say current actions set out in national and international policy may not be enough to counter the impacts of rising CO2 emissions.

Other methods suggested in the research include using low-voltage electric currents to stimulate coral growth, and genetic engineering to help marine life cope.

The researchers also set out a plan to add base minerals – such as carbonates and silicates – to the waters around the reefs to help offset higher levels of acidity.

Carole Turley from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory says the oceans are becoming: “Hot, sour and breathless”

Rio+20: Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

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