What Is Coral Restoration?
What do we mean when we talk about coral restoration? The basic principle is: secure broken corals so they will survive. This can be done due to the fact that corals reproduce primarily through asexual means, and any individual polyp in the colony has the potential to create a new colony in the right conditions. For the non-scientists of us:
People and most animals make babies through something called sexual reproduction. For sexual reproduction, you have to have one male and female. The babies are always new and individual. While you might look a little bit like your mother or father, you are not identical, or an exact copy, of either of them.
In asexual reproduction, there is only one parent instead of two, and that parent makes more of itself by dividing into pieces or splitting parts of itself off and growing new pieces. But all of the new pieces are genetically identical to the parent. That means that both the parent and the copy are basically exactly alike.
Why Is Coral Restoration Important?
Coral reef restoration provides a lifeline for species threatened with extinction and could help corals successfully adapt to climate change.
According to recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), up to 90 per cent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050, even if warming is limited to an increase of 1.5°C.
We can’t afford to lose this valuable ecosystem that covers less than 0.1 percent of the world’s ocean, but supports over 25 percent of marine biodiversity and serves at least a billion people with a wide range of ecosystem services such as coastal protection, fisheries production, sources of medicine, recreational benefits, and tourism revenues.
How Are We Restoring The Reefs?
Growing and Planting Healthy Corals
Coral reef farming, also known as coral aquaculture, is quickly being acknowledged by scientists as the best solution for habitat rebuilding of many unique species and for reducing the pressure that overfishing has caused.
We use our coral nurseries as a staging area for rehabilitation of damaged or propagated corals. Once they reached a mature state, they are placed back out by our Coral Catch Superwomen onto reefs that are damaged and on the artificial reef we created.
So far we have placed more than 200 structures that together create a strong web that covers the seabed and provides a stable base for coral fragments to regrow. To a portion of these hex domes our Coral Catch Superwomen added micro fragments of selected corals from communities that are known to thrive in this area.
Sounds pretty simple right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as just attaching the coral; the conditions must be conducive for growth. Generally, this means that we maintain the same light levels (depth), and transplant the corals to an area where threats such as pollution, anchor damage, and sedimentation are low or absent.
Which Methods Are We Using?
On a weekly basis our Coral Catch Superwomen monitor our restoration site and coral farm through assessing fish biomass as well as live coral coverage and the growth rate of each fragment. The methods they use to collect this data include; Underwater Photo Transect (UPT) and Underwater Visual Census (UVC), weekly time-lapse of each hex dome, Remote Underwater Video (RUV) and manual measurement using vernier caliper for growth rate.
How Is Our Community Involved?
Our research team works closely with local stakeholders and community groups such as the head of the island, hotel owners, scuba divers, and other key figures in the community to create awareness of the need to restore and protect the coral reefs of Indonesia. Local responsibility will form an effective measure against local detrimental impacts on the reef and encourage residents to take better care of the treasures they have in their waters.
Education is of great importance to us and we offer workshops for our local community and those who want to learn about coral reef ecology and marine conservation on a monthly basis.
All our Coral Catch superwomen are also committed to being ocean ambassadors which means they will:
- Organize a workshop of minimum one hour in their hometown maximum one month after completing their scholarship and invite a minimum of ten other women to join. During this event they will share their experience, lessons learned, best practices, and (hopefully) inspire others to become an ocean advocate as well.
- Organize minimum two (beach) clean ups a month in an area of their choice.
- Publish minimum one post related to conservation a week on their social media.
Doing this actively involves and inspires local communities all over Indonesia.
What Are Our Goals for 2023?
- To be able to offer 20 girls a coral restoration scholarship of nine weeks in which we certify them as PADI scientific divers and show them how to set up and monitor a coral restoration project.
- To be able to offer four scholarship candidates to work with our research team for another three to six months (depending on how much funding is available).
- To create an artificial reef of 4000 m2 of coral reef by deploying 360 hex domes in the Gili Matra Reserve.
- To organize a minimum of five workshops in which we teach the local community about coral reef ecology and marine conservation and what they can do to help us to protect and restore the reefs.
- To maintain and monitor coral restoration site(s) in the Gili Matra Reserve on a weekly basis and share best practices with (local) government and other coral restoration organizations.
- To make an overview of all +/- 500 coral restoration projects in Indonesia and create a network between them. The goal of this network group is to exchange knowledge and experience, inspire others to take action and to help our scholarship candidates to find a job.
How Can You Be Part Of It?
Although restoration offers hope for the future of our reefs, it is not a silver bullet. Our main focus as a society should be eliminating pollution, overfishing, and reducing emissions, as these are the three main reasons, we are losing our coral reefs. We can replant the forest, but the best thing to do is not cut it down in the first place.
Change starts with you. Seriously. Every human on earth—even the most indifferent, laziest person among us—is part of the solution. Fortunately, there are some super easy things you can that will make will make a big difference. This is what you can do to protect the coral reefs:
1. Support Our Coral Catch Superwomen
Everyone, everywhere can make a positive difference and together, create a healthy ocean for all. Whoever you are, from individuals to communities, business to government, the time to change is now. Click here to learn how you can support our Coral Catch Superwomen.
2. Talk About Our Coral Catch Superwomen
Around the world, billions of us use social media every day, and that number just keeps growing. The right message at the right time can start a movement that changes the world, in both big and small ways. If you like what we do, share it so the people in your network can see it too. We need more people coming together as a global community and changing the world from the bottom up!
3. Educate Yourself
Coral reefs are such beautiful ecosystems that we are all familiar with to some extent, but we can always learn more. Do you know how many species are present in the reefs? How many different medicines and herbs are discovered by studying the organisms that live there? The more you learn about the reefs, the more you will come to appreciate how fragile and important these ecosystems are to this planet. You can learn more about coral reefs on our blog page.
4. Choose Suistanable Seafood
Our oceans cover more than seventy percent of the earth’s surface, but worldwide demand for fish and seafood is growing more rapidly than our oceans can reasonably (and safely) support.
When it comes to seafood, the term “sustainable” means that a fish has been caught or farmed with both the long-term future of the species and the health of the oceans in mind. Put simply, seafood that is sustainable is better for both you and the planet. Learn here how to make smart seafood choices.
5. Use Reef Safe Sunscreen
Several common sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to be toxic to corals. Sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredients do not contribute to coral bleaching.
6. Conserve Water To Reduce Pollution
The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater that eventually find their ways back into the ocean.
7. Do Not Touch + Support The Right Business
When you visit a coral reef, practice reef-safe diving, and snorkeling. Do not stand, touch, or anchor your boat on the reef.
Before you make a reservation, talk with dive shops, snorkeling operators, and hotels about how they are trying to help save the coral reef. If they cannot provide a decent answer, it probably means that they do not care. In this case, you should take your business and money to a place that supports our reefs.
8. Become Part Of The Solution
Individual efforts are just one part of the web of solutions needed to fight coral reef decline. But communities, cities, large institutions, companies, and nations have the power to make broad impacts. Through civic and political engagement, you can help shape your community in ways that reduce negative impacts on coral reefs. Volunteer in local (beach or reef) cleanups, become a citizen scientist, and make sure you vote! Elections have an enormous impact on policymaking.