A House of Straws | God's World News
A House of Straws
News Shorts
Posted: April 12, 2024
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    A “Coral Fort” (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
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    A temporary home for coral made from drinking straws (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
  • K1 27837
  • K2 01772


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Can you build a home for coral? Or is that idea . . . just grasping at straws?

Coral reefs are in trouble around the world. Scientists have worked for years to help the colorful groups of tiny animals survive. They’ve also been growing new coral in labs and placing them in the ocean.

The problem? Parrot fish and other predators find that lab-grown coral very tasty. And growing coral takes loads of work . . . and money. Less than half the lab-grown coral survives in the sea. Each piece costs around $100 to grow. That’s some expensive fish food!

South Florida researchers came up with an idea: the Coral Fort.

“Parrot fish on the reef really, really enjoy biting a newly transplanted coral,” says Kyle Pisano. He is a marine researcher. “They treat it kind of like popcorn.” The fish eventually lose interest in the coral colonies as they grow. But scientists need to protect the coral in the meantime.

Mr. Pisano had the idea of creating a barrier around the itty-bitty pieces of coral. It would protect the corals long enough for them to grow up. Then it would disintegrate. No removal needed!

He used polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) to build coral cages. That substance might sound like a dangerous chemical. But it actually comes from canola oil. When it decomposes, only water and carbon dioxide are left behind. Some kinds of biodegradable straws are made from PHA.

How does the coral cage work? A limestone disc is surrounded by eight vertical drinking straws made from PHA. The device doesn’t have a top. That’s because the young coral needs sunlight. Parrot fish don’t like to eat facing downward. So even with the opening, Coral Forts will likely not become their favorite restaurants.

The best straws for the cage are boba straws. Those are used for a tea drink with tapioca balls at the bottom. The straws are wider and thicker than normal drinking straws. They last just long enough in the ocean before disappearing.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet . . . the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. — Psalm 8:6-8