Some good news

We often report on environmental factors endangering our reefs and the devastation climate change is causing in ecosystems worldwide. We do not want to ring the doomsday bell every time we report on issued affecting the oceans and coral reefs worldwide. Sometimes we have some good news amid the many alarming reports on the state of coral reefs. The Journal of Current Biology published a study recently, that looked at coral reef restoration efforts and brought some encouraging findings to light. The efforts of coral restoration do not only bring back the level of coral coverage but also has a swift impact on the ecosystems functions. Researchers were surprised to find how quick they would find measurable results and an improvement to the whole system. Ines Lange, a researcher with the University of Exeter, UK states the “We found that restored coral reefs can grow at the same speed as healthy coral reefs just four years after coral transplantation.”

The study that was conducted at the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Programme in South Sulawesi, represents a systematic observation of one of the larges coral restoration projects worldwide under way.

These reefs were damaged through “dynamite fishing” some 30 and 40 years ago. The coral rubble had prevented a recovery due to abrasive effect of the loose rubble combined with the wave action. Coral Larvae did not had a chance to settle and repopulate the reefs for decades. The restoration efforts were conducted in a two prong approach. Sand coated metal structures were submerged to control loose rubble and offer a basis for farm raised coral to be transplanted into the former wasteland.

Researchers were interested to find out how long it would take for the restoration efforts to show an impact on the location. They devised and ingenious method to objectively measure the overall condition and size of the reef. Lange explains the process: “Corals constantly add calcium carbonate to the reef framework while some fishes and sea urchins erode it away, so calculating the overall carbonate budget basically tells you if the reef as a whole is growing or shrinking. Positive reef growth is important to keep up with sea-level rise, protect coastlines from storms and erosion, and provide habitat for reef animals.”

The main objective was to find out how long it takes to bring back healthy reef growth and increase the stability of the symbiotic ecosystem surrounding the reef. Regular measurements at different sites that were restored at different points in time over the last few years showed, that the net carbonate budget has tripled in just four years. That level matched the findings at healthy reefs, that were observed as a control group. While the method of transplanting mostly branching coral yielded promising results, the new reef showed a lack of biodiversity compare to natural growing reefs that have a larger population of other coral types and prove to be more robust towards heatwaves and other adverse factors. There is a certainly the factor of time which will promote further increase of biodiversity in the new reefs. Scientists were hopeful that this research will illuminate the effectiveness of restoration efforts and help securing more political will and needed funding for more similar programs in the future.

The studies co author Tim Lamont from the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK concludes: “These results give us the encouragement that if we can rapidly reduce emissions and stabilize the climate, we have effective tools to help regrow functioning coral reefs.”

Our Team at the Bali Coral Farm see the findings of this research as a reason for hope. We are are off course especially invested in the health and preservation of our coral reefs. This research sheds light on the chances and opportunities that we have when fighting climate change. Even though our small coral farm is only a tiny wheel in the great big picture, we remain committed to support environmental preservation and restoration. Raising coral is what we do. We always enjoy seeing coral flourish and propagate, regardless if in our underwater ocean farm or the great big blue.

Branching coral is the easiest to propagate for coral restoration efforts