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Rare blood moon sparks enormous coral baby-making event on Great Barrier Reef

The rare blood moon is a special signal for Great Barrier Reef corals to embark on an enormous baby-making event but it takes the help of scientists to ensure its success.

A layperson probably wouldn’t think the lunar event would have much impact on the natural wonder, or the thousands of varieties of coral there, but scientists use it to increase the chance of its survival.

Coral spawn on Great Barrier Reef after the blood moon.
Coral spawns egg and sperm during the mass breeding event. (Great Barrier Reef Foundation/Johnny Gaskell)
Coral spawn on Great Barrier Reef after the blood moon.
The spawning event is sparked by the blood moon, a signal for nature to begin breeding. (Great Barrier Reef Foundation/Johnny Gaskell)

The blood moon, which is the last until 2025, is a wake-up call for coral in the iconic Great Barrier Reef to start spawning.

Between November 12 and 13, corals will release trillions of eggs and sperm into the water during a mass breeding phenomenon likened to “an underwater snowstorm”.

Boats4Corals 2022 tourism operators will use boats to capture coral eggs and sperm and then put them into larvae pools so the spawn can breed into coral.

The program is similar to human IVF procedures as scientists help to bring the eggs and sperm together for a better chance of survival.

Scientists believe Coral IVF improves survival from one in a million coral babies in nature to one in 10,000.

The spawn bundles will stay in the nursery pools for a week while they become coral babies before being settled into targetted areas to bring bright and diverse life back to the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral spawn on Great Barrier Reef after the blood moon.
The Boats4Coral program heads out into the ocean and collects eggs and sperm. (Great Barrier Reef Foundation/Johnny Gaskell)
Coral spawn on Great Barrier Reef after the blood moon.
The coral spawn is put into larvae nursery pools until they’re ready to be settled into the reef. (Great Barrier Reef Foundation/Johnny Gaskell)

Climate change is the biggest enemy of the Great Barrier Reef and risks the 64,000 jobs generated by the booming tourism and science industry.

One of the impacts of climate change is rising water temperatures which causes corals to expel microscopic algae making them white, a process known as coral bleaching.

Water acidification and severe weather events like cyclones are also destroying coral reefs.

In light of the impacts of global warming, Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the Coral IVF program is an initiative to keep the natural wonder alive.

“The combination of the tourism industry’s leadership, boats, local knowledge, and people-power allows us to achieve reef restoration at a greater scale than researchers can achieve alone so it’s a powerful partnership,” she said.

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