Out of season spawning
Reproductive success in corals is critical to the long term resilience and survival of coral reefs. Many species of corals only reproduce for a few days of the year and this is the basis for the world famous mass spawning events on coral reefs and in particular in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef (GBR) (photo of corals spawning). Due to the transient nature of the mass coral spawning event, scientists that study these animals only have a very limited window of opportunity in which to study coral spawning and to gain a greater understanding of the early life history stages of the larvae. The spawning and larval phase of corals is the key event for the production of future generations for which to continue and replenish coral ecosystems.
Reproduction in plants and animals is controlled by various ecological factors and these can be manipulated in controlled environments to change the timing of this important transient event. In conjunction with the SeaSim team a prototype coral holding tank has been developed. Precisely controlled engineering systems allows researchers to manipulate such factors as day length, light intensity, lunar periodicity, water temperature and movement and energy inputs to give scientists the toolbox that is needed to accelerate research and understanding of reproduction and the vulnerable larval phase and settlement of corals.
Once the prototype system has been demonstrated to be successful it will be replicated in the SeaSim and multiple systems will be constructed to provide spawning corals at multiple times throughout the year. Research outputs that would otherwise take years of effort can be rapidly increased through the induction of multiple coral spawning's such that researchers could be supplied with spawning corals and larvae for most months of the year.