Coral Reefs are important the world over. And, the world over, coral reefs are facing an uphill battle for survival. Because of climate change, storms which are increasing in both their frequency and intensity, the constant bleaching, combined with human interference are all having a negative impact on the growth and preservation of our valuable resource.

    There might be a solution to the problem and this was discussed in detail with tour guides and environmental agencies last Wednesday at the SunBreeze conference room. Lisa Carne from Placencia has been working alongside Austin Bowden–Kerby in Fiji in a project which aims to grow live coral. Through the placement of frames implanted with live coral, the various species are allowed to grow freely and abundantly.

    At the SunBreeze, those present got the opportunity to learn first hand about the reef and its growth process. Carne explained the many results stemmed from different studies conducted in Placencia. These studies proved valuable in explaining which species of coral would survive better in what part of Belize’s marine ecosystem. Through research which involved studying tides and current flow, Carne was better able to diagnose what species would better survive in the Ambergris Caye area.

    There are a couple ways to graft coral but in San Pedro, Carne opted to use “fragments of opportunity.” Instead of cutting into live coral formations, Carne utilized pieces or fragments of coral which had already been broken loose due to many factors including storms or heavy wave action. These fragments were “rescued,” trimmed into various five to ten centimeters and implanted onto the frames to allow them the opportunity to grow and begin the formation of a new colony. Acting as a binder for the coral – as an artificial substrate – were plastic cable ties which will be totally covered with coral at the end of the project.

    While Carne was on the island, and with assistance from the staff at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and biologist Kirah Foreman, two frames were installed at the reserve. The first one was positioned in Zone A (the Coral Reef Zone) while the second found a home on Zone D, which is located in Shark Ray Alley near the sand bar. A third frame will be installed shortly at another area of the reef, possibly Bacalar Chico. While the coral is allowed to grow, Foreman will pay visits on the third, sixth, twelfth and eighteenth month to assess the growth and log valuable information.

    Presently, there are 11 different Acroporid genotypes of corals, such as the Staghorn coral, on the frames, however upon Carne’s return, another growth process will be tested on San Pedro waters. This will be the “table” methodology which allows for growing multiple other coral species such as the star, brain, finger and pillar corals.

    Present for the workshop were 40 participants of which some took a field trip to Hol Chan the following day in order to visit the designated sites. This hard and invaluable work has been possible through the funding of World Wildlife Fund Central America (WWF-CA) and the World Bank.

San Pedro Sun