Corals spawning gives scientists hope for ‘vulnerable ecosystem’

The spawning, which was seen from recorded videos off the coast of Cairns, Queensland, "gives the scientists who observed it hope for the vulnerable ecosystem."

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Image Credit: Mikaela Nordborg

Scientists bare witness to coral spawning in the Great Barrier Reef calling it good news for the reef after years of coral bleaching. This form of coral reproduction happens once every year when corals send tiny balls containing sperm and eggs into the water.

The spawning, which was seen from recorded videos, happened Tuesday night off the coast of Cairns, Queensland and “gives the scientists who observed it hope for the vulnerable ecosystem,” EcoWatch reported.

“Nothing makes people happier than new life, and coral spawning is the world’s biggest proof of that,” Gareth Phillips, principal marine scientist at Reef Teach, said. “I’ve seen the corals all go off at once, but this time there seemed to be different species spawning in waves, one after the other. The conditions were magical with the water like glass and beautiful light coming from the moon.”

During spawning, the balls containing egg and sperm break open and the sperm and egg unite creating coral babies. Aside from spawning taking place once a year, corals regularly reproduce asexually.

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered five mass bleaching events since 1998, leaving on 2 percent of the reef unscathed, according to a recent study. Coral bleaching occurs as ocean temperatures rise causing “the coral expel the algae that give them both nutrients and color,” EcoWatch reported. But the recent spawning en masse is “a strong demonstration that its ecological functions are intact and working,” Phillips said.

“The reef has gone through its own troubles like we all have, but it can still respond, and that gives us hope,” Phillips said. “I think we must all focus on the victories as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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