A New Life for the Barrier Rief

Feb 15, 2017 | written by:

Every scuba diving has a dream: to dive in a crystal clear sea and to enjoy the beauty of the reef. But today this dream is quite impossible to fulfill due to the drastic reduction of coral caused by the human activity: trawling, anchors and use of poison to stun fish while fishing. Not least the rise in temperatures has reduced by 40% corals present in our seas. The outlook for the future is not good: if the temperature will continue to rise, coral reefs will die within the next 50 years.

A lifeline and an unexpected hope, however, comes from a 63-year-old man with a gentle smile and a sunburned skin, sign of a life given to the environment and, in particular, to the oceans, to study and protect them. His name is Dave Vaughan and he’s the Executive Director of MOTE, the Tropical Research Laboratory in Summerland Key in Florida. Its discovery comes by accident, when he thought of retiring from work and to no longer dive (cause his age). Instead, one day he commits the incredible mistake of breaking a coral into small pieces. Hence the discovery (and the error’s renamed in ‘eureka mistake’) that the broken corals do not die after a few days, but begin to grow, managing to reach in just a few months, the size of which would have acquired after years of underwater ‘integer’ life.

The lucky accident taught Dave that a treatment is possible for these life forms. Today, in the MOTE’s laboratories  corals, cut from the coral-father according to the micro fragmenting technique, grow up in nine reservoirs big as of dinner tables, on which salt water is constantly sprayed intake to 80 feet below ground trapped in the porous limestone and then filtered to remove all traces of ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Corals grow in neat rows and in a single year they grow 25 times faster than they would at sea. Once grown, they are replanted next to those already present in their natural habitat, making happy biologists and sea lovers.

Alongside the process of coral reefs’ restoration, the MOTE also launched another project. Some corals are placed in a tank able simulate how it will be the ocean water in a hundred years. In this way, the researchers can understand which of existing corals today will survive in the coming years and which will fail trying to adapt to the new climatic conditions. This is a precious help for groped to protect the weaker species and understand how much time man has to prevent the loss of these specimens.

Today Dave Vaughan oversees the corals operations of growth and graft day by day at the MOTE plant in Summerland, managing the recovery program of the reef. Meanwhile he also made a promise: to not retire until he will plant one million new corals, adding a wise and far-sighted comment: "People think that with the technology we have killed this Planet. But with technology we can bring this planet back to life."

The MOTE has also launched an online fundraising project to raise awareness of coral reefs. If you also want to donate, you can do it here; or if you want to see Dave in action, you can watch the video below. 

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