Although the outlook may be bleak for the world's coral reefs overall, there might at least be hope for little bits of them. Scientists at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation have announced development of an eco-friendly film that could help protect corals against bleaching.

Created in a collaboration with the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the biodegradable film is just one molecule thick, and is made out of calcium carbonate – the same thing that coral skeletons are composed of. It's intended to float on the ocean's surface, where it will reduce the intensity of sunlight reaching the coral.

Along with high water temperatures caused by global warming, harsh sunlight is one of the main causes of coral stress, which in turn leads to bleaching.

In small-scale tank tests performed at the Australian Institute of Marine Science's National Sea Simulator, which simulated coral bleaching event conditions, the film was found to reduce the amount of light hitting corals by 30 percent. According to the scientists, this reduced the level of bleaching in most of the seven species tested.

"It's important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef – that would never be practical," says Anna Marsden, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. "But it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef."

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