Did You Know That Coral Reef Nurseries Exist?

On the coast of Bonaire Island in the Caribbean, several divers plunged into the ocean to tend to an aquatic species that has been withering away. Coral reefs have been showing an alarming death rate with levels of pollution pivoting. However, the Reef Renewal Foundation in Bonaire has been stepping up and piloting a coral reef restoration project that has been aiding in reviving underwater life.

Different species are grown before being planted into the wild in a bid to restore the dying reefs. Over 900 tree-like structures built underwater are used to culture distinctive strains of coral. Each 5 fott PVC and fibre-glass tree has 10 branches, and can hold around 100 of the young organisms. Once the sea polyps are healthy and mature enough, workers at the Reef Renewal Foundation in Bonaire, collect them to be transplanted.

Lorenzo Mittiga, a marine biologist who lives on the island, explained more about the process, "The coral nurseries are rows of 'trees' that are tethered to the bottom of the sea with sand anchors and buoyed with floats that sit just below the surface. Each tree holds a unique genetic strain of coral, and a 'full' tree can hold anywhere from 100 to 160 corals. Coral restoration means moving nursery-reared corals to restoration sites. After six to eight months growing in the nursery, corals are healthy and mature enough to be transplanted to a restoration site.”

He added: “Within a few weeks after outplanting, the coral fragments attach themselves to the reef structure and solidify their place on the reef. Within two to three years after outplanting, we have observed the corals spawning, creating the potential for new genetically diverse corals to settle and grow on the reef."”

The freshly grown corals, which have been taken as cuttings from adult corals, are planted on local reefs that have been identified as 'degraded'. Coral reefs around the world are becoming damaged and dying out thanks to pollution, coral mining, and over-fishing. However, the Bonaire nurseries are now growing over 13,000 varieties of corals ready to be planted in the wild.

Mr Mittiga said: “It is incredible to see coral restoration taking place. To watch a degraded reef transform into an underwater city in just a few years is magical especially with the downward trend in reef health throughout the Caribbean and around the world. But perhaps the most awe-inspiring part of this whole venture is the proof that we can make a difference. Each of those corals were outplanted by a diver - not just one diver, but over 900 divers.”

“Each of those divers has left a lasting legacy on the reef and given the reef a helping hand toward a better future.”

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