SYDNEY (Reuters) - For the past two years Australian scientists have been collecting and storing billions of reproductive cells from the Great Barrier Reef, hoping that this "spawn bank" will one day help rebuild and preserve the World Heritage site.
The reef, a popular tourist site worth billions of dollars annually to the Australian economy, is threatened by dredging, sedimentation and disease. Global issues such as ocean acidification and warming due to climate change also affect the reef's health.
Coral spawning takes place when colonies and species of coral simultaneously release egg and sperm cells for external fertilization. It occurs only once a year, in the spring and after a full moon, turning vast swathes of the ocean red with a slick of the cells.