SHENZHEN, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Liao Baolin spends the majority of his working hours submerged underwater, surrounded by the gentle gurgling of bubbles emanating from his oxygen tank.
Liao, a senior engineer of marine environmental protection, meticulously plants and repairs corals, nurturing their growth with the vision of transforming them into vibrant underwater forests in the future.
"Coral reefs play a crucial role in the Earth's ecology, serving as vital habitats for a multitude of marine animals and plants," said 39-year-old Liao. "Beyond their significance in sustaining diverse marine life, they also act as natural barriers, safeguarding coastal areas and mitigating the destructive impact of storm waves."
Following his graduation from Guangdong Ocean University with a major in aquaculture, Liao embarked on his career at the Xuwen coral reef national nature reserve administration in south China's Guangdong Province.
Over the course of the next decade, he witnessed the aftermath of each typhoon, which often necessitated the demolition and relocation of houses originally constructed along the coastline. Compounded by the effects of global warming, coral reefs have experienced an evident decline, particularly due to the widespread bleaching and mortality caused by the El Nino phenomenon in 1998, impacting reefs worldwide.
Seeing the encroachment on the reserve's coastline, Liao keenly recognizes the pressing need for coral protection and restoration efforts.
In 2016, he resigned from the administration and joined the Shenzhen Institute of Guangdong Ocean University, where he focuses on coral reef ecological protection and restoration.
"I hoped that I could do more scientific research on coral reef restoration and mobilize a broader community to join forces in the protection of our oceans," Liao said.
Over the years, the primary task of Liao and his team has been conducting research in the field of artificial coral propagation and ecological restoration of coral reefs. They are dedicated to the continuous cultivation and planting of corals.
What sets their work apart is the extensive time they spend working directly in the field. "Coral is not found ubiquitously, and it thrives in tropical and subtropical clean waters and has stringent requirements for sediment, temperature, and light. As a result, we researchers need to dive into the depths for investigations," he said.
"Diving is a high-risk job, leaving no room for mistakes, as even the slightest error could have fatal consequences. Also, we have become accustomed to the challenging conditions of high temperature, salt levels and humidity that we have to overcome during the work," Liao said.
According to Liao, there are various difficulties in the process of growing corals. One method he employs is fixing coral in trays, also known as coral cups, and constructing underwater shelves resembling nurseries where these cups can be secured. Once cultivated, the corals are carefully transplanted into the seabed.
"When encountering difficulties, what we can do is to improve little by little through technology. So far, our team has successfully planted over 160,000 corals, covering an area exceeding 10 hectares. I hope more people will act together to protect the ocean," he added.