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Top Story

New 'spider' technique found to help coral reefs

Even after being severely damaged by blast fishing and coral mining, coral reefs can be rehabilitated over large scales using a relatively inexpensive technique. For the National Science Foundation-funded study, researchers installed 11,000 small, hexagonal structures called "spiders” across 5 acres of reef in the center of Indonesia's Coral Triangle. Coral diversity is the highest on Earth in that region but is threatened by human activity, including overfishing, pollution and climate change. Between 2013 and 2015, researchers attached coral fragments to the structures, which also stabilized rubble and allowed for water to flow through freely. Live coral cover on the structures increased from less than 10 percent to more than 60 percent. This was more than what was reported for reefs in many other areas of the Coral Triangle, at a cost of about $25 per square meter. Of particular surprise, while massive coral bleaching decimated other parts of the world between 2014 and 2016, bleaching in the rehabilitation area was less than 5 percent, despite warm water conditions known to stress corals.

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