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Australia to fund Great Barrier Reef restoration and protection

BBC News

Australia has pledged A$500 million (£275m; $379m) to protect the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. In recent years, the reef has lost 30% of its coral due to bleaching linked to rising sea temperatures and damage from crown-of-thorns starfish. The funding will be used to reduce the runoff of agricultural pesticides and improve water quality. Some of the money will be used to help farmers near the reef modify their practices. Threats to the reef include "large amounts of sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off" as well as the crown-of-thorns starfish species, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said.

Vinegar offers hope in Barrier Reef starfish battle

The Japan Times

SYDNEY – Coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish can be safely killed by common household vinegar, scientists revealed Thursday in a discovery that offers hope for Australia's struggling Great Barrier Reef. The predatory starfish is naturally occurring but has proliferated due to pollution and runoff at the World Heritage-listed ecosystem, which is also reeling from two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching. Until now, expensive chemicals such as bile salts have been used to try to eradicate the pest, which consumes coral faster than it can be regenerated, but they can harm other marine organisms. Tests by James Cook University, in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), showed vinegar is safe, effective and cheap. Study head Lisa Bostrom-Einarsson said crown-of-thorns were injected with vinegar at four sites on the reef over six weeks, causing them to die within 48 hours with no impact on other life.

Giant sea snail may be just the ticket to rescue Barrier Reef from global warming

The Japan Times

SYDNEY – A giant snail that eats starfish could be unleashed to help save the Great Barrier Reef, officials said Monday, with a trial under way to breed thousands of the rare species. Predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, which munch coral, are naturally occurring but have proliferated due to pollution and agricultural runoff in the struggling ecosystem. Their impact has been profound. A major study of the 2,300-km-long reef's health in 2012 found that coral cover had halved over the previous 27 years, with 42 percent of the damage attributed to the crown-of-thorns starfish. According to research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the pest avoids areas where the Pacific triton sea snail -- also known as the giant triton -- is present.

Scientists discover way to lure coral-killing starfish to their doom

The Japan Times

PARIS – The beast goes by the Latin monicker of Acanthaster planci, but it is known to us as the crown-of-thorns -- a venomous starfish that is ravaging our precious coral reefs. One of many threats to coral, the large, spine-studded species -- named after the diadem of thorns set on Jesus' head -- is capable of chewing through kilometers (miles) of reefs when large numbers of it gather and spawn. In desperation, guardians of reefs in the Indian Ocean and Pacific hire divers to remove the starfish physically or inject it with a lethal poison that does not harm other species. But science has now opened up a new front in the offensive -- a genomic map that one day may lead to biocompounds designed to lure starfish to their doom. In a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, an Australian-led team describe how they unraveled the DNA code of the crown-of-thorns.

Robot makes world-first baby coral delivery to Great Barrier Reef


In a world first, an undersea robot has dispersed microscopic baby corals (coral larvae) to help scientists working to repopulate parts of the Great Barrier Reef during this year's mass coral spawning event. Professor Dunbabin engineered QUT's reef protector RangerBot into LarvalBot specifically for the coral restoration project led by Professor Harrison. The project builds on Professor Harrison's successful larval reseeding technique piloted on the southern Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service (QPWS), following successful small scale trials in the Philippines funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. "This year represents a big step up for our larval restoration research and the first time we've been able to capture coral spawn on a bigger scale using large floating spawn catchers then rearing them into tiny coral larvae in our specially constructed larval pools and settling them on damaged reef areas," Professor Harrison said. "Winning the GBRF's Reef Innovation Challenge meant that we could increase the scale of the work planned for this year using mega-sized spawn catchers and fast track an initial trial of LarvalBot as a novel method of dispersing the coral larvae out on to the Reef. "With further research and refinement, this technique has enormous potential to operate across large areas of reef and multiple sites in a way that hasn't previously been possible.