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March 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 48, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Save a Reef? Weed it Like You’d Weed a Garden

from the March, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We've all dived at sites where a previously pristine coral reef has become smothered by algae. Thanks to a simple but effective strategy of divers plucking out big handfuls of large algae from coral reefs and hauling it away, Magnetic Island in Florence Bay, part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is having a coral baby boom. They followed the advice of researchers from James Cook University, who published their study in the journal Restoration Ecology, which was reported in National Geographic.

Pollution and hot ocean temperatures weaken coral and allow it to the overtaken by seaweed. The James Cook University researchers determined that cleaning the corals of the Great Barrier Reef resulted in a three-fold increase in the number of new coral babies in 2019 and 2020.

While getting climate change under control is the ultimate solution for keeping the world's reefs healthy, local "seaweeding" can help give corals a boost. The research shows potential in scaling the cleaning efforts to local coastal communities that may rely on healthy reefs for tourism and fishing.

So maybe you could suggest to the next dive center you visit that divers sacrifice one dive during their stay and devote it to coral reef gardening instead of just complaining that the beautiful reef is covered with algae.

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