MARUHABAA – WELCOME TO REEFSCAPERS !
Reefscapers is an endeavour to combine our experience in coastal protection and marine ecology through coral propagation, using coral frames, made of welded and coated iron bars. Targeted primarily at resorts in the Maldives to improve the aesthetics around guest amenities or to create snorkelling reefs close to the shore, the method’s field of application is promised to widen in the future and represent a credible proactive adaptation to the present climate scenario.
Following our initial successes, Reefscapers coral propagation projects now rank as some of the most successful in the world. To date, we have transplanted more than 3000 coral frames (covering 2 hectares) using over 40 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 or city lights.
Visit Our Partners in Reefscaping to check how your coral frame is growing.
WHAT IS HAPPENING ?
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 usual sea surface temperature increase, with 90% of coral mortality down to 15m, and similar events more recently in 2010. 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.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS ?
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 survivors died in 2010. A demise of the corals will cause the disappearance of the many species depend on corals for their very existence.
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. In areas, Reefscapers installed thriving reefs in areas excavated for beach replenishment. In what was left as a grave yard we have created a thriving 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.
REEFSCAPERS – Coral Propagation in the Maldives
Join Simon as he travels around Baa Atoll on our NOAH safari boat – with a stop-off at the local island of Fulhadhoo to try his hand at welding coral frames. There’s also a visit to our research station at Innafushi where Simon sees the effects of coral bleaching first hand.
There is also a visit to the Maldivian garbage island of Thilafushi, where Marie very nicely sums up the surprisingly horrible situation :
Check out the following links for more information from the BBC: