Will Coral Nurseries save the world?
It is 2023 and the fight to save the oceans is well underway.
Thousands of organizations are now involved in saving the oceans, which not only literally cools down our planet, by absorbing heat, it also accounts for 70% of our oxygen supply.
Ocean health is largely dependent on the delicate balance of the oceanic ecosystems and coral reefs account for a quarter of existing life, in the water.
These are the simple and unembellished facts that environmentalists have been advocating for a number of years, hoping that this understanding, once common knowledge, will drive meaningful action.
One action-based solution that is increasingly popular in pushing back against ocean catastrophe, are coral nurseries.
What are coral nurseries?
Coral nurseries are underwater structures used in areas where coral populations have declined due to major environmental events or disease.
NGOs, scientists, dive-shop personnel and other parties grow endangered corals on these structures. Frequently, they are attached via pedestals to blocks on the seafloor, hung on line nurseries, or placed in baskets suspended off the seafloor.
Biologists and/or volunteers care for the rescued corals, monitoring their health and growth. They work to keep algae, encrusting sponges, predators and invaders at bay. Coral ecologists grow or plant corals in nurseries created either on land or in the ocean.
As with most plants, you can break a leaf off and grow it into a completely new plant. We use the same process in the coral nurseries, to grow coral. When a piece of a coral is broken off, it is regrown into another coral, and when they are large enough transplanted from the nursery to the coral reef.
Multiple studies indicate that these restoration methods are very successful. Furthermore, it causes no excess damage to fragments or donor colonies. Once out-planted, corals behave just as wild colonies.
Coral world International and Coral nurseries.
In our oceanariums, and through our NGOs, this is exactly what we are doing.
In our Red Sea location, The Underwater Observatory Marine Park, we are fragmenting corals. This involves attaching the parts that have fallen or broken off to a base with special adhesive, then growing them out to a size that can be safely transferred to the coral reef surrounding the Observatory.
In Palma Aquarium, we fragment corals from the tanks that we have in order to grow "new" corals for other displays. This is a sustainable and entirely environmentally friendly way to allow our visitors to see the authentic and captivating beauty of real and corals with no negative effect on corals in the sea.
Will it really turn the tide on climate change?
There is growing support for coral nurseries; however, we are still in the R & D phase of development. Scientists around the world who are transplanting corals to the sea are still at a phase of seeing if these corals last in the long term and if they can survive without the help of humans. There are currently multiple trials involving "artificial" reefs that come in many forms and shapes form cement, holed domes, steel tables, and even plastic 3D printed mazes.
Coral nurseries, such as ours are one of the most successful interventions so far tested, helping to support corals’ through asexual reproduction. The goal is to transplant the healthy, nursery-reared corals back out into the degraded reef, or areas set aside specifically for these kind of projects that show good potential for survival to bolster existing colonies and help reseed damaged areas after major events. By replenishing decimated reefs, coral nurseries play a role in helping to ensure the ongoing health of the ocean.