Mo Ehsani, a civil engineer from Arizona believes that he has the solution to the global coral bleaching crisis. He plans to use a pipe that delivers cool water to stressed corals.
Bleaching is a phenomenon that happens in the oceans as a consequence of climate change. It destroys some of the world’s most beautiful reefs. Ehsani, professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Arizona said “Our reckless acts are killing these beautiful creatures that have lived for 20 million years. What kind of legacy are we leaving behind?”
Coral bleaching happens when the ocean water is too warm, and the corals remove the colored algae that are living in their tissues and therefore turns the coral completely white. Corals are able to survive this bleaching event, however it leaves them under great stress. This makes them vulnerable to damage and may lead to death. Healthy, resilient reefs can resist stressful events like bleaching and recover, but only if the temperatures return to normal.
Ehsani’s plan is simple, low cost, and is sustainable. With the use of the energy that is generated by ocean waves, cool water can be pumped into the stressed corals through a durable and lightweight pipe, which he designed.
“There is an endless supply of cool water just a short distance away, at the bottom of the ocean,” Ehsani said. “The heating of the water comes from above — from the sun beating down on the ocean.”
The Great Barrier Reef. Source: Sciencemag
The pipe is composed of fiber-reinforced polymer, which makes it easy to build, transport and install. It is also a cost-effective solution. The pipe is made by the company which he founded in 1994, QuakeWrap. It was made by wrapping fiberglass or carbon fiber around a steel mold in the shape of a tube. In the process of wrapping, the fabric is sticky and flexible. However, when it is heated, it hardens and can be slipped off the mold and become a pipe. “The technique we have developed allows us to make it in any diameter we need,” Ehsani says.
Ehsani hopes to get the attention of Australian officials for a pilot project in the Great Barrier Reef. According to scientists, Australia’s national treasure has already suffered great coral death and damage due to bleaching. The Great Barrier Reef is known as the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. It is comprised for more than 3,000 reefs. Ehsani has already reached out to Australian scientists hoping to be able to collaborate with them.
Scientists are currently investigating different solutions to preserve coral reefs. There is a team of Australian researchers that hope to genetically engineer the microalgae that is found in corals to enhance their tolerance to heat.