In 2018 along with a group of divers from A-1 Scuba I traveled to Curaçao to get certified in coral restoration with Ocean Encounters. We participated in their restoration project in the underwater nursery of Reef Renewal Curaçao, outplanting 8-10″ long fragments, aka ‘frags’, of staghorn coral, ‘Acropora cervicornis’ onto bamboo structures built and embedded in the sea floor. Climate change and ocean acidification pose an imminent threat to corals, which are sensitive to the slightest changes in sea temperature and water chemistry. In this crisis moment, restoration is one of the important and impactful tools that can buy corals time. The hope is that over time the corals we outplant will reproduce, grow and create thickets of coral better able to provide habitat for marine life and withstand the local stressors.
When I visited the thicket after the first year, the coral frags were growing large. By the following years, the bamboo was obscured by the corals, and, there was a layer of dead corals underneath the new growth. This was concerning until I learned more about the way that corals grow.
In the case of hard corals such as staghorn, these polyp conglomerates grow, die, and endlessly repeat the cycle over time, slowly laying the limestone foundation for coral reefs and giving shape to the familiar corals that reside there. Because of this cycle of growth, death, and regeneration, many coral colonies can live for a very long time – thousands of years, in the case of Caribbean reefs. Restoring these thickets in Curaçao can preserve these corals and help restore the habitat they create. Saving and restoring coral reefs requires a multipronged, long term, local and global approach..We will talk about organizations that are working globally and work being done to protect natural and grown corals in future blogs. Follow along!