Scientists Accelerate Coral Reef Regrowth with Electricity

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In 2018, BGR and New Scientist reported on a scientific effort using electrical currents to stimulate regrowth of damaged coral reefs. As is generally known, coral reefs, which are crucial components of ocean ecosystems around the world, have been dying off due to climate change and destructive fishing practices. Damaged coral regrows slowly, and rising ocean temperatures lead to bleaching that can cause entire reef systems to collapse permanently. As Alice Klein reported in New Scientist, researchers found that laying metal grates over damaged reefs and then running electric current through them draws in minerals that cause the coral to grow up to four times faster than it otherwise would.

The technique is currently be used by conservationists with Reef Ecologic to restore sections of damaged coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The same technique has previously proven successful on reefs in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

As Mike Wehner reported in June, 2018, a previous study found that, globally, “coral reefs prevent a stunning $4 billion in damage” just by protecting coastal areas from flooding.  The benefit to the United States is estimated to be around $100 million worth of flood protection annually. According to this study’s lead author, “Our national economies are normally only valued by how much we take from nature. For the first time, we can now value what every national economy gains in flood savings by conserving its coral reefs every year.”

In June, 2018, USA Today ran an article on the study that determined the economic value of coral reef conservation, but otherwise the corporate media have not done a good job of covering the latest science on coral reef conservation.

Sources:

Mike Wehner, “Scientists Think That Maybe Electrically Shocking Coral Reefs is a Good Idea,” BGR, September 25, 2018, https://bgr.com/2018/09/25/coral-reef-recovery-effort-electric-metal-grate/.

Alice Klein, “Divers are Attempting to Regrow Great Barrier Reef with Electricity,” New Scientist, September 20, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2180369-divers-are-attempting-to-regrow-great-barrier-reef-with-electricity/.

Mike Wehner, “Letting Coral Reefs Die Will Actually Cost Us More Than Saving Them,” BGR, June 14, 2018, https://bgr.com/2018/06/14/coral-reef-cost-recovery-effort/.

Student Researcher: Adam May (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Mackenzie Zippay (Sonoma State University)