Sowing Corals: a new hope for coral reefs

Secore International, a conservation organization for the protection and restoration of corals, assured that with a new method, many species can be saved 

Sowing Corals: a new hope for coral reefs

Leer en Español: Sembrar corales: la esperanza de los arrecifes

Now days, corals are in danger. One of the main threats is climate change. According to recent studies, the warming of the ocean water is bleaching these animals. The research, published in Science magazine, assured that "the rate of bleaching has increased more than fourfold in the past 4 decades" due to the seas warming up.

The study explained that bleaching happens when the colorful algae partner that lives within the corals banishes due to stressful conditions, just like the change in temperature or a decrease in tides.  

During the past decades, bleaching was normal, but these events were relatively rare; "allowing for recovery of the reef between events", as stated in the research. With climate change, abnormalities are common. "Furthermore, warming events such as El Niño are warmer than previously, as are general ocean conditions", affirmed experts.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), when the coral is white, "it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality".

Despite climate change being one of the main reasons for coral bleaching, there is also another factor that is affecting the environment. Recently, the UN Environment warned that sunscreen is damaging reefs.

According to the organization, "many sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a chemical that helps filter out the ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer. Unfortunately, research indicates that it also makes corals more susceptible to the bleaching events that have damaged famed reefs around the world”.

But there is hope

One of the main methods to save coral reefs is sowing corals. Scientists considered this method of "planting corals" in order to keep these animals alive. They transplant corals on degraded reefs, promoting structural habitats.

However, this method is becoming useless. Divers, who had to attach each coral manually, need to compete with a lever of degradation occurring at a scale of hundreds and thousands of square kilometers.

This is why Secore International is promoting a new method that can be more effective. Dirk Peterson, project leader and Executive Director of the organization, assured that "If we want restoration to play a more meaningful role in coral reef conservation, we need to think in new directions. Our sowing approach is an important step towards reaching this goal since it will allow the handling of large numbers of corals in a very short amount of time".

The new approach consists to settle "coral larvae on specifically designed substrates that are self-stabilized and attach to the reef via natural processes. After a few weeks to months these Seeding Units are sown on the reef by simply wedding them in crevices rather than requiring manual attachment".

 

Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

 

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