Have you ever heard about coral gardening and coral restoration? They are techniques that allow people to help reefs recover from anthropogenic or natural damages. I knew a bit about it, but I definitely needed to learn more.
During the last week of November and the first week of December I attended a course organised by the University of Milan Bicocca by the MaRHE Center in the Maldives in collaboration with Corales de Paz. Dr. Montoya held a 10 days workshop on different techniques to rehabilitate reefs.
He started his course saying “the best way to restore reefs is actually protect them from the beginning, preventing any damages to happen to them”. In fact, although very successful, reef restoration or rehabilitation as we like to call it (creation of new conditions without replicating the status before the damage), is an expensive, time consuming, hard working exercise.
The technique we focused on, is aimed at creating large scale projects with fast growing species, which will become the pioneering species attracting other slow growing species in the area to restore.
The nursery looks a bit like cloth lines; corals of opportunity get collected from a sandy ground, where their fate wouldn’t be very happy, get fragmented in small pieces and hang at a certain depth to grow. Once on the lines, their scars (from fragmentation) will start healing and the coral tissue will start growing around the rope. This goes on for roughly one year, with us having to weekly clean the lines from algae… After corals get to the size of a football, they are ready to be transplanted back onto the reefs.
A typical question at this point is: “Why do we fragment corals and put them on a line to grow? Why don’t we let them grow directly on the reef?” Corals on lines are less subject to predators, they are in a controlled environment and fragments of a certain size allow for faster growth. Yes, it is really time consuming, but really rewarding.
Soneva has decided to engage in such a project at Soneva Fushi and I will make sure I’ll share the results as we progress with it.
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