Coral reefs are a living, breathing paradox – shallow waters are typically low in nutrients, and yet, for something that takes up only approximately 0.1% of the Earth’s landmass, it sustains 25% of all marine species. These corals are special, as not only are they Earth’s natural recycling bin (any nutrients that seep from the land into the shallows are taken up and reused by the corals), they are home to multiple complete food chains running simultaneously, but they are also nature’s barrier from tsunamis and hurricanes.

Day Care & Coral Nurseries

Image: facebook.com/skdiverscenter/

They have been mistreated and exploited, for decades, all for shortsighted corporate gain.

And yet, despite the reef’s obvious importance to the Earth’s health, they have been mistreated and exploited, for decades, all for shortsighted corporate gain. Destructive fishing methods, water pollution (leading to excessive algal growth), climate change (water temperatures rising, more extreme weather patterns, heightened El Nino, etc.), and the subsequent onset of disease has so far placed about 90-95% of all coral reefs under threat.

Yes, while entire coral reefs are strong, housing a multitude of species and being naturally built against strong tides, they are hyper sensitive to any changes in the water temperature and pH, which, because of man-made climate change, is currently the only reason many of the reefs currently under threat will not be able to bounce back

Thankfully, there has been an initiative underway to help regrow some of the lost coral, via nurseries. Granted, not all coral can be regrown, as many do participate solely in sexual reproduction, but this is a start..

How it Works

Hard corals, like the Staghorn and Elkhorn varieties, can generally be regrown this way, and this is how it works:

  • They can reproduce though fragmentation, for example, if a piece breaks off and lands in a favorable spot, where it gets a good amount of sunlight and does not get washed away by the current, it can reattach to a rock and begin to grow.
  • As this is already naturally occurring, all that is required now is to facilitate it so that any and all fragments have the opportunity to regrow.
  • Any loose fragments of the coral floating around are hung from/tied to an artificial framework underwater and allowed to grow in shallow waters, where reefs are normally found.
  • When the coral pieces are large enough, typically in six to nine months, they are reattached to a reef head by an all-natural, non-toxic epoxy, and allowed to continue growing.

Image: Eyom Napala

The goal is not to just have clones of one coral, but to prompt enough natural growth within the reef system to be numerous enough for sexual reproduction to reoccur. Plus, other than possibly a little cooler waters, these nurseries do not need any special conditions, as the whole point is not only to regrow the corals, but to regrow ones with the mutations in their genetics to allow them to sustain the new oceanic conditions, and hopefully survive the effects of manmade climate change.

Right here in the Philippines, coral nurseries have been started up for a whole bunch of reasons. Just recently, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) culminated in Boracay and used a section of its waters for the replanting, all for educational purposes. In Bakud Reef, in Sarangani, however, a Panamanian ship ran aground and destroyed 2,844m2 of reef, and restoration was paramount.

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Unfortunately, everybody is implicated in causing the deaths of coral reefs worldwide, whether it be through ignorance or direct financial gain.

However, the heightened effects of El Nino has caused a massive coral bleach across the world, and the Philippine was also hit very hard by it. Without any other stresses, corals have the ability to bounce back, but due to destructive fishing, cyanide poisoning and disease, entire reefs here in Philippine waters are buckling. Good news is that the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) has now taken over the responsibilities and are opening up coral nurseries all over the Philippines.

Unfortunately, everybody is implicated in causing the deaths of coral reefs worldwide, whether it be through ignorance or direct financial gain.

Fortunately, there are ways of helping restore the reefs before they are wiped out altogether. Organizations like Ocean Quest have popped up, as they recognize that both education and action are required for people to be able to begin helping. Give them a buzz when you’re feeling up for some coral restoration!

Image: padi.com

Coral reefs are, simply put, irreplaceable to the overall health and ecosystem of both our oceans and the planet. Without them, we are not only worse off; we may not have the capacity to survive losing the precious resource. The future generations deserve better than to have to pay for yours and previous generations’ mistakes, so it’s time to get educated, get ready, and get involved!

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