Scientists freeze Great Barrier Reef coral in world-first trial

Cryogenically frozen coral reefs can be stored and later reintroduced to the wild to protect them against rising ocean temperatures

December 24, 2022 08:10 pm | Updated 08:10 pm IST

Cryogenically, frozen coral can be stored and later reintroduced to the wild.

Cryogenically, frozen coral can be stored and later reintroduced to the wild. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Scientists working on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have successfully trialled a new method for freezing and storing coral larvae they say could eventually help rewild reefs threatened by climate change.

Scientists are scrambling to protect coral reefs as rising ocean temperatures destabilise delicate ecosystems. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four bleaching events in the last seven years, including the first-ever bleach during a La Niña phenomenon, which typically brings cooler temperatures.

Preserving corals

Cryogenically frozen coral can be stored and later reintroduced to the wild but the current process requires sophisticated equipment including lasers. Scientists say a new lightweight “cryomesh” can be manufactured cheaply and better preserves coral.

In a December lab trial, the world’s first with Great Barrier Reef coral, scientists used the cryomesh to freeze coral larvae at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS). The coral had been collected from the reef for the trial, which coincided with the brief annual spawning window.

“If we can secure the biodiversity of coral... then we will have tools for the future to really help restore the reefs and this technology for coral reefs in the future is a real game-changer,” said Mary Hagedorn, Senior Research Scientist at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. told Reuters from the AIMS lab.

The cryomesh was previously trialled on smaller and larger varieties of the Hawaiian corals. A trial on the larger variety failed.

Also Read | Explained:The Great Barrier Reef’s recovery and vulnerability to climate threats

Trials are continuing with larger varieties of Great Barrier Reef coral.

The trials involved scientists from the AIMS, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Conservation Biology Institute, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Taronga Conservation Society Australia as part of the Reef restoration and adaptation programme.

Mesh technology

The mesh technology, which will help store coral larvae at -196°C (-320.8°F), was devised by a team from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering, including Dr. Zongqi Guo, a postdoctoral associate, and Professor John C. Bischof.

It was first tested on corals by PhD student Nikolas Zuchowicz.

“This new technology that we’ve got will allow us to do that at a scale that can actually help to support some of the aquaculture and restoration interventions,” said Jonathan Daly from the Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.