What We Do

In 2001, Reefscapers started pioneering projects at the two Four Seasons islands of Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru in the Maldives to improve coral cover around the island and aid reefs damaged by coral. Following our initial successes, our coral propagation projects now rank as some of the most successful in the world. To date, the project has deployed over 6,000 coral frames in the Maldivian waters, covering an area of two hectare and featuring over 40 thriving species of corals.

The ecological benefits derived from the implementation of these new reefs are patent. Acting as refuge areas for animal post-larvae and source of spawn for the coral species propagated, they contribute to the overall diversity and increase the productivity of a reef flat. In addition, Reefscapers is committed to the local communities and maintains island based jobs, the most viable alternative to fishing.

Transplanting the corals successfully is just the start of the process. The exact location of each coral genotype is logged on a central database to help the team identify species better suited to higher water temperatures and therefore more resilient to coral bleaching events. Then a strict process of monitoring and recording by using specific tools developed by Reefscapers commences, with each frame regularly inspected and photographed, with maintenance work undertaken when necessary.

So well-established are the Resorts’ oldest coral frame colonies that they are now themselves spawning, contributing new baby corals to the surrounding natural reefs. By increasing the reproduction of the most successful clones, the team is working towards the development of ever more resistant coral offspring, better adapted to withstand higher seawater temperatures and so help the corals in their fight against global warming.

What We Offer

Reefscapers offers the most advanced coral propagation programme to efficiently restore altered reefs or deserted sandy seabed of your private beach. Our coral reef experts will design a custom tailored reef following environmental needs by expanding resort’s atmosphere into the water.

During the entire process, the programme involves long term monitoring and maintenance. All the coral frames are bi-annually monitored with pictures taken and uploaded on your personal website, all the data are recorded in an online database visible by the sponsors at any time, this will include dedication and number of the frame, name of coral species, satellite QGIS map showing the exact location of the frame (very useful for return guests).

Reefscapers coral frames attract marine life into sandy lagoons

Coral frames are regularly monitored, maintained and photographed

Coral Reefs In The Maldives

Coral colonies are made of hundreds of polyps, an invertebrate animal, living in symbiosis with a microscopic algae living in its tissues. The polyp is host to the algae, which in return photosynthesises the food for the polyp. The polyp grows a calcium carbonate skeleton in order to expand the colony and accommodate new polyps. Like this, they have been thriving under the sun in the warm waters all around earth relying solely on their understanding.

Under heat stress, the algae dies inside the polyps’ tissues causing the polyps to expel the algae, depriving themselves of their food source. The polyp is in fact transparent, and the algae gives it colouration. After the algae has left, the immaculate whiteness of the skeleton is left as if bleached. The polyps are thereafter getting weaker and may not survive if the water temperature stays high.

In 1998 we witnessed the devastating effect of an unusual sea surface temperature increase, with 90% of coral mortality down to 15m, and similar events more recently in 2010 and 2016. However well we control the carbon emissions, the warming forecast due to the inertia of the system alone is alarming. Scientists predict the demise of coral reefs by 2050, which leaves us very little time.

Acropora robusta corals bleached due to high ocean temperatures

Acropora gemmifera species suffering from coral bleaching

What Are The Implications?

In a country which owes its very existence to reef building corals, their death will directly affect the livelihood of the population. The whole setting in which the Maldivians evolve will be changed. The most dramatic consequence of them all would be the disappearance of the island themselves. Dead corals will indeed not grow upwards and keep up with rising sea levels.

Of course, there will be technical solutions to this problem, and some of them are already being implemented at large scale. Humans may finally be safe, constrained to a number of heavily fortified islands, but this has a cost far greater than that of the infrastructure!

Even though some local impacts are affecting the reef and could be better managed, the forecast temperature rise is equivalent to an ecological tsunami for the Maldivian coral reef ecosystem. The required rate of evolution for certain species may be faster than what is possible. As proof, the off springs of the 1998 and 2010 survivors died in 2016. A demise of the corals will cause the disappearance of the many marine species on which depends their very existence.

Unused guest rooms at a Maldivian resort due to beach erosion

Continuous wave action causes loss of mature trees

What Can We Do?

Development is a fatality we have to face. Humans have heavily modified the surface of the earth to sustain an ever growing population. We engineer our terrestrial environment, but often pay a lot less attention to the marine aspect, especially in terms of ecology.

Mitigation or compensation can be achieved if only we could reprioritise the investments. Reefscapers has installed thriving reefs in areas excavated for beach replenishment. In what was left as a grave yard we have created a fully-fledged reef in a few years, with lots of fishes, a lot of them juveniles. Better still, these reefs are not fished at all and act as small scale marine protected areas. Through a greater mastery of the transplantation and increased understanding of the ecological processes, we will learn ways to engineer the marine environment in order to make it more diverse, more productive, help with aesthetics, recreational aspects and even coastal protection.

Corals are the major building blocks of this ecosystem, yet we know very little about how to manipulate them. Only a few years back, coral propagation was criticized as ineffective, causing more death than growth, but the success of the Reefscapers, among others, is turning the tables. On the land, we have very much learnt to manipulate trees, select them in order to get them adapted to different environments. It is time we take a similar direction for corals, learn more about their in situ characteristics, select them for their resistance and propagate them efficiently.

Healthy coral reefs play a hugely important role in protecting the low-lying islands of the Maldives