Underwater Zooplankton Enhancing Light Array (UZELA); A Novel Device for Stimulating Nutritional Therapy in Corals
Coral reefs are declining at an alarming rate. When temperatures increase by as little as 1-2 °C above their normal thermal maximum for as little as ten days, corals become stressed, lose their endosymbiotic algae, and turn white – hence the term bleaching. When bleached, corals do not get photosynthetic sugars produced photosynthetically by their endosymbiotic algae and are starved of this food source. Natural reef recovery from bleaching events can take decades or longer. Since corals are the building blocks of coral reefs, their demise means the breakdown and eventual collapse of reef ecosystem function. Reefs provide habitat for 25% of all marine species, provide coastal protection from storms and erosion, support the tourism industry, and are estimated to have an annual economic value of USD 9.9 Trillion. Solutions to minimize the impact of bleaching and enhance recovery are imperative.
Corals also get nutrition from eating zooplankton. The Underwater Zooplankton Enhancing Light Array (UZELA) is an autonomous, battery-powered, submersible device deployed on the reef floor. It shines a light toward the surface at multiple locations on a coral reef to enhance the local abundance of zooplankton and increases coral feeding opportunities allowing the coral to maintain their nutritional needs, recover more quickly, and minimize mortality. Enhancing feeding in corals grown in nurseries, on restored reefs, and on impacted reefs will improve their growth rates and reduce their susceptibility to heat stress.
Government organizations, coral restoration projects, conservation managers, coral jewelry industries, and researchers would be the target users most likely to adopt this technology. Nutritional therapy provided by UZELA can enhance feeding opportunities in bleached corals, accelerate their recovery rate, and minimize mortality following a bleaching event.
PCT application patent filed