Newest Method to Protect & Assure the long life of our Coral Barrier Reef
On Thursday, December 3, 2009 – Vol.11 No. 47 of the Ambergris Today Newspaper, we introduced to our readers the concept of Coral Gardening. The article explained that the World Bank has funded a project through the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center in Belize entitled “Strengthening Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change”.
Lisa Carne, who is based in Placencia, Belize, has established six coral nursery sites in Southern Belize using three different in situ culture methods: “frames”, “tables” and “ropes”. Lisa was in San Pedro where she conducted a dissemination workshop on Thursday, December 10 at the Sunbreeze conference room where she explained to tour guides and other interested parties what the project was all about, how it was being carried out and what the goal of the project.
According to Lisa, there are 11 different Acroporid genotypes (Elkhorn and Staghorn) of coral that are listed on the IUCN Redlist as "critically endangered" directly due to climate change. Increased frequency & severity of storms, bleaching & disease have caused a loss of over 98% abundance of these corals Caribbean-wide.
These corals were, for the most part "fragments of opportunity", meaning the colony was already broken loose by storms and/or wave action. These fragments are being “rescued” with this new project, where otherwise they would not survive on their own.
Lisa and a team from Hol Chan Marine Reserve set up a few frames in different zones at Hol Chan. One frame is in Zone A and one frame is in Zone D (near Sand Bar or "rock pile"). Material was left for a third frame, to be assembled by the Hol Chan Marine Reserve staff as they see fit (Bacalar Chico was a potential location).
Lisa explained to us that the corals were trimmed into 5-10cm pieces and affixed to a previously treated metal frame (artificial substrate) with plastic cable ties, which the corals can/will grow over.
She continued on by stating that initial measurements were taken and should be followed up by Kirah Forman, Marine Biologist of Hol Chan Marine Reserve at 3, 6, 12 & 18 months. Lisa plans on returning to set up the "table" methodology, which allows for growing multiple other coral species (like the star, brain, finger & pillar corals).
Ms. Lisa Carne would like to thank the following persons for making this project possible: WWF-CA they paid for one of the nurseries (world bank paid for the 2nd) and WWF paid for most of the consultation (also with world bank assistance). A big thank you to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve staff and Valentine form CORAL as well as Austin Bowden-kerby in Fiji.
Mother corals are first established in the coral farms, by trimming sections off wild corals. Where possible, entire colonies are selected from populations of jeopardized corals, such as where the corals are growing so close together that competition for space amongst the corals is resulting in corals dying, or where corals are exposed out of the water at low tide. Another source of mother corals comes from corals broken by fishing activities, anchors, and storm waves.
After growing the mother corals for about two years, the corals reach the size of a large dinner plate. At that point, the mother corals are trimmed to produce numerous 1-2 inch (2-5cm) “seed corals”, which are in turn planted onto 4cm concrete disks or “coral cookies”, each shaped like a button, with two small holes for threading fishing line. These cookies are woven into heavy metal frames with heavy line and placed on underwater tables made of iron bars. The corals are left to grow in the coral farms for 6 to 14 months. These second-generation corals are either, replanted into restoration sites, onto coral castles, or harvested, bleached and colored with acrylic paints to re-establish a more realistic coral color.
Conserving 25-30% of the over-fished coral reef as no-fishing areas typically results in doubling of the catch within one year in the open fishing areas, and up to five fold within only three years.