macro&micro

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daniel stoupin, a doctoral candidate in marine biology at the university of queensland, has photographed a variety of coral species from the great barrier reef using full spectrum light to reveal fluorescent pigments that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

given the complexity of the techniques used, which involve time-lapse, stereoscopic and focus stacked photography, the images take up to ten hours to produce in the lab. 

coral growth rates in the great barrier reef have plummeted 40 percent in the last 40 years, a result, according to a recent study, of increased ocean acidification. 

since the beginning of the industrial revolution, about one third of the carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans, where it in turn prevents coral from using a mineral called aragonite to make their calcified skeletons. 

this impacts not only the coral itself but over 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc that inhabit the great barrier reef. 

new modelling has also shown that if ocean waters continue to warm by even one degree, which most now see as unstoppable, the coverage of corals on the great barrier reef could decline to less than 10 percent, which is a level too low for the reef to mount a recovery. 

further complicating matters for the coral is the plastic detritus left by humans which now litter the oceans and which the coral now consume. unable to expel the plastic bits and thus take in nutrients, the coral slowly starve. a recent study found that each square kilometre of australia’s sea surface water is contaminated with approximately 4,000 pieces of tiny plastic.