Southern Cross reef research a global TV hit

Peter Harrison with BBC crewProfessor Peter Harrison with BBC crew

His coral research has been making waves across the globe for decades; now Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison is featured on BBC UK’s Blue Planet Live this week in a live broadcast from Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Harrison has been explaining the impact of multiple bleaching events on the UNESCO-listed coral reef in the first of three Blue Planet episodes featuring him and his research team from Southern Cross University.

Reporter Liz Bonnin described Professor Harrison’s work on the Great Barrier Reef as ‘nothing short of heroic’.

“Peter and his team have embarked on this ground-breaking, revolutionary project to make sure thereef gets a much needed lifeline. Peter’s ground-breaking idea could offer a lifeline to the most damaged parts of the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

Professor Harrison’s larval restoration involves harvesting many millions of coral eggs and sperm during mass spawning events, growing the coral larvae in enclosures on the reef and in tanks, before releasing larvae onto dead coral to rapidly increase the rates of successful recruitment of new corals.

His vision is not only to help rescue the world’s degraded coral reefs, but to develop large-scale restoration partnerships with researchers, managers, conservation organisations and companies to massively increase the scale of successful production and settlement of many millions of coral larvae.

“More than 50 per cent of the corals in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef were killed in the bleaching events of 2016 and 2017 and we know in the decades prior to that another 50 per cent of the corals died on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Professor Harrison on Blue Planet Live.

The southern Great Barrier Reef had healthy coral systems that were originally fortunate in escaping the recent bleaching, but that’s changing.

“It is really important we act now on climate change. We stand to lose not only the corals but probably one million species associated with corals on reef systems,” Professor Harrison said.

“It is as simple as that; the science is telling us what is happening to the reef.”

Watch the first episode here.

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