Head underwater at the Great Barrier Reef with Google Maps, and you'll notice something deeply saddening: instead of the vividly colored corals you would expect, vast swathes of the reef are dull brown -- dying, thanks to pollution, fishing, and climate change. This is a situation repeated the world over, with 20 percent of the world's reefs dead, and another 50 percent under immediate threat.
Although coral reefs, when left alone, can regenerate, those closer to human habitation aren't so lucky. It seems hopeless; short of drastic intervention, such as the cessation of fishing and dropping waste into the sea, how on earth could we combat this?
Humans have been trying to help. Fragments of Hope is a coral nursery in Belize that sends divers down to plant pieces of healthy coral in the dying reefs to speed up the recovery process. This work is painstaking and slow, however, and -- perhaps most pertinently -- subject to the limitations of the human body. There are places where humans cannot dive, and human endurance has a limit.
The Coral-bot Team from the U.K. has proposed that robots go where humans can't tread. The team has designed and built a series of robots that could autonomously navigate the depths and continue the work of planting coral. … Read more