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Posts Tagged ‘coral reef’

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Photo: Bobby Bascomb
The Grupo Vidas crew taking a break from their coral restoration work in Puerto Rico.

Perhaps inadvertently, media stories lead one to believe that all Puerto Ricans are passively waiting for the Mounties to rescue them from the destruction of Hurricane Maria. The Mounties surely better get their act together, but residents of the island are not counting on them. They’re taking matters into their own hands. I plan to post soon about the women who are rebuilding the island’s farming industry, but today the topic is restoring damaged coral reefs.

The National Public Radio (NPR) show Living on Earth has the story.

“Roughly 10 percent of Puerto Rico’s corals were broken and damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Corals are a first line of defense against storm surges and a critical habitat for juvenile fish but face an uphill battle against warming seas, ocean acidification and ship groundings. As Host Bobby Bascomb reports, Puerto Ricans are finding ways to give corals a fighting chance by reattaching healthy fragments. …

“BASCOMB: Chunks of coral were broken off by rough seas and ocean swells. But on a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I discovered there’s still hope for thousands of battered bits of coral lying around the sea floor.

“I’m standing on a tall dune near Vega Baja on Puerto Rico’s north coast. The ocean stretches out in shades of dark blue, turquoise, and pale aquamarine. But interspersed among the usual colors of a tropical ocean are patches of brownish orange – elkhorn coral.

“Salvador Loreano is a worker with the environmental NGO Grupo V.I.D.A.S. Their main task is coral restoration.

“S. LOREANO: Our goal right now is to plant coral fragments here because you know that Maria, Hurricane Maria, came here and devastated the island. This caused great damage to the coral reef because the first time we went to there after Maria, the reef was like destroyed, like we see big coral colonies upside down and a lot of dead coral.

“BASCOMB: As long as they remain submerged under water, these coral, which are colonies of tiny invertebrate animals, have a 20 percent chance of survival. But that increases to more than 90 percent if they are attached to a larger structure, not getting banged around by the surf or smothered with sand.

If a piece of coral is at least 2 inches long and 80 percent healthy, it can actually be reattached to an existing reef. …

“MARIOLA LOREANO: [Here’s] a slate where we write our tallies, basically, which is all of the fragments that we’ve successfully planted, a bag for any trash that we find inside the ocean, and a buoy so it floats. …

“BASCOMB: We put on our mask, snorkel, and fins and walk backwards into the bath-warm water, stepping over the sharp black sea urchins. … A rainbow of fish greets us – green fish with florescent blue heads, black fish with yellow stripes, green fish with pink stripes. They’re all juvenile fish, and the reef is a critical habitat for them. …

“A worker named Ernesto is already hard at work. He uses a wire brush to scrape algae off a piece of coral the size of a ping pong paddle and does the same to a suitable spot on the reef. Just like gluing two objects together, you need to start with a clean surface on both sides. Then he pulls a plastic zip tie out of his sleeve and uses it to attach the coral in place.

“He uses pliers with a florescent pink handle to pull the zip tie tight and cut off the excess plastic, which he sticks in his other sleeve. This piece of coral is now one of hundreds just like it pinned to the reef with zip ties. And in two to three weeks, it will grow onto the reef enough to stay put on its own. …

“BASCOMB: If hurricane damage was the only issue, this work wouldn’t be necessary. But much like the world’s coral reefs in general, this reef has a lot of challenges. Grupo V.I.D.A.S. worker Ernesto says one of the biggest problems is algae blooms from sewage runoff. In many places the coral is essentially smothered, leaving it a ghostly gray color. …

“E. VÉLEZ GANDÍA: It’s like Day of the Dead but under the water.

“BASCOMB: There is a very large dead coral at the entrance to the reef in the shallowest, warmest water. Ernesto believes that one died not from algae blooms but from stress of a warming ocean. … Ernesto talks about the death of that coral as one might talk about a member of the family passing away.

“VÉLEZ GANDÍA: And we got a lot of love for him. We saw him alive, very alive. He is one of the oldest in our reef, but he start dying. We saw the process of his death. So, we just admire him and remember him. It’s very sentimental, I don’t know, but it’s deep in the heart.”

More at Living on Earth, here. And you can read another article about ways to save reefs at Earther, here.

Photo: Sean Nash
Elk horn coral are part of a vital reef ecosystem that provide habitat for fish. In Puerto Rico, many were damaged after Hurricane Maria.

prcorals_elk_horn_coral

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My friend Kristina is an artist with a long-time interest in shells. At a Harvard-based shell club that she frequents, she meets many interesting artists and scientists — including George Buckley, a Caribbean coral reef researcher who made the video below.

Buckley says, “Little did I know in 1976 that my first visit to Bonaire to study land snails … and dive with Captain Don Stewart would lead to a career interconnected with Bonaire and to some 100 more return trips!

“Bonaire became the focus of case study after case study of marine management and biodiversity in my Harvard University environmental management program. [Dozens] of research and study groups, students, magazine writers and photographers that I brought to the island all fell in love with the landscapes and the emerald sea of Bonaire.

“The early years of the Bonaire Marine Park [BMP] and STINAPA [Dutch acronym for national park] … were a great adventure and while my efforts with the Carco Project and Marecultura were not as successful as hoped, both helped to lay the groundwork for future efforts around the world as to best practices in that field.

“The BMP’s pioneering leadership in education, moorings, gloves policies, banning light sticks and spearfishing, creating the ‘Nature Fee’ and so much more led to Bonaire’s well-deserved world-wide recognition. The efforts to save Klein Bonaire were a testament to international collaboration and stand to this day as the Hallmark of what a committed group of concerned people can accomplish. It is indeed true that Bonaire is to conservation of nature as Greenwich is to time – with credit to Captain Don.”

If you are on Facebook, check out the rest of Buckley’s post.

Photo: Sand Dollar in Bonaire

 

 

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