How to get involved with coral regereration projects
01 Jan 2019
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So what is coral?
Corals are marine invertebrates and unlike plants they don't produce their own food. Corals are in fact animals. They have tiny, tentacle-like arms that they use to capture their food from the water and sweep into their minuscule mouths. The branch or mound that we often call “a coral” is actually made up of thousands of these tiny animals, which are called polyps.
Should coral be coloured or white?
If a coral is colourful, it means it's healthy. If it's white, then it means it's bleached, and may eventually die.
What is bleaching?
When ocean temperatures are unusually high, thanks to the El Nino effect, coral expels the algae living in its tissues and turns white. This is called bleaching. Since 2014 the Maldives has been struck by severe coral bleaching, affecting between 60 - 90 % of its coral, depending on the area. Unfortunately beached coral doesn't attract fish or other sealife like the healthy coral does.
Bringing back the coral
But it's not all doom and gloom. The exciting news is that a coral reef restoration programme called Reefscapers has been established with the aim of making the Maldivian reefs resilient to these temperature changes and increase their rate of regeneration.
Using metal frames, small branches of coral can be attached and spread out to create 'coral nurseries'. Corals compete for nutrients in the immediate environment around them, so by spreading them out they can recover faster. Using this method, researchers in the Maldives have seen a four-fold increase in growth rates, over an array of about 560 frames.
At Baros the team use the 'coral propagation' method, where fragments of corals are transplanted to hard substrate to create coral nursery areas around the island that aim to reproduce corals and establish homes for various fish and invertebrates.
Guests can participate in a workshop by collecting still living, but broken coral fragments from the seabed and attaching them to the special coral tables around the island's waters. For those not wishing to take part in the workshop but who would still like to donate, a personalised name-tag is attached to record the sponsor's contribution and the guest then receives half-yearly updates on the progress of their coral for two years.
The Maldives' first ever 3D printed reef at Summer Island
Summer Island expanded its own artificial reefs with the world’s largest, and the first ever 3D printed reef in the Maldives. It was assembled with hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, and submerged in seven metres of water in the lagoon at Summer Island, with the aim of building a new coral reef ecosystem. When the corals have colonised the reef in a few years, marine life will once again be thriving in these waters, and if the new and innovative 3D printing approach proves successful, it could be a huge advancement in helping coral reefs adapt to the warming climate.
Guests can pay $5 to plant their own coral at Summer Island to help with the reefscaping project.
Hopefully the regeneration projects will continue and we will see more coral reefs like these ones below, starting to come back to life.