London, July 12 : Scientists are using a device dubbed the 'Super Sucker' to suck up seaweed from reefs, resulting in cleaner and thriving reefs.
Around the globe, the explosive growth of invasive and native seaweed species is wreaking economic and ecological damage.
According to a report in New Scientist, the Super Sucker was developed as a potential solution to the problem, which is blamed on overexploitation of algae-grazing fish and pollution from fertilisers.
To create the device, biologists modified a system designed for gold dredging. Seaweed from reefs is sucked up and dumped onto mesh sorting tables on a barge.
Native organisms inadvertently vacuumed are removed and returned to the reef and the seaweed is eventually used by farmers as fertiliser.
According to Eric Conklin, a marine science advisor for the Nature Conservancy in Honolulu, Hawaii, US, and project leader, the team has cleared some 8,000 kilograms of algae - mainly the invasive Gracilaria salicornia - from two 210-square-meter reef plots, leaving a control plot in between.
The researchers could only remove about 90% of the seaweed, so they expected that the algae would grow back, necessitating periodic cleaning.
Instead, within weeks, the remaining seaweed was gone and two years later it has still not returned.
The group's theory is that they removed enough material that herbivorous fish could finish the job.