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In an attempt to preserve its dying coral reefs, Indonesia has undertaken an ambitious underwater experiment, and it seems to be working. Scientists are using electricity to stimulate re-growth of coral in an area of damaged coral reef off the island of Bali. The project began four years ago and has achieved remarkable results.

In this article, Marilyn August describes how scientists placed dozens of metal grids on the ocean floor at a depth of just three to seven metres. They then attached wires carrying electricity from onshore charging stations. Within days of receiving their first jolts of electricity the grids were covered with a thin film of limestone — the surface needed for corals to grow on. The grids were then 'seeded' with live coral, which grew by up to one centimetre in the first month.

The researchers estimate that the amount of electricity used in a week is the same as that needed to keep a single 60-watt light bulb lit for a month. They hope their technique will be used in other countries in place of more expensive methods of reef management. Indonesia is home to over two-thirds of the world's known reef-building coral species, whose survival brings valuable tourist revenue to the country by attracting divers.

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