The folowing letter was posted yesterday to the NOAA Coral List, which reaches the majority of coral reef scientists, NGOs, and coral reef managers. The initial response has been highly positive. This is the ONLY proactive strategy being proposed to help coral reefs in this time of crisis! Thanks so much for helping.
An Active Strategy to Respond to Severe Coral Bleaching
I recently proposed to the list a more proactive approach to managing severe bleaching, through a combination of predator removal and coral gardening of the bleaching resistant corals. I have gotten a request from Kiribati for assistance, and I am also preparing for the possible mass bleaching that some models are predicting will hit us in Fiji in 2016. I have put together a Global Giving program online through our Fiji-registered NGO Corals for Conservation.
Shorter url for Twitter, SMS, or Facebook: https://goto.gg/21872
Globalgiving UK link (UK donations are partially matched by the UK Government): http://www.globalgiving.co.uk/projects/emergency-response-to-massive-coral-bleaching/
Please share the url and consider either donating or possibly collaborating.
To recap the background: From my experience in Fiji in 2000, post bleaching coral predator abundance tends to become extreme (relative to coral cover), when mass coral die-offs occur. The hungry predators, faced with a decreased food supply quickly kill off the few survivors of mass bleaching. I hypothesize that this post-bleaching mortality of bleaching resistant corals is strongly inhibiting the adaptive potential of coral reefs to respond to warming seas.
The proposed approach by no means reduces the need to address the root causes of coral reef decline: controlling greenhouse gasses, improving water quality, and establishing no-take MPAs. However, it offers an alternative to passively watching the mass die-offs and doing nothing in the short-term to increase the survival of the resilient corals.
We have an opportunity to trial the effectiveness of intervention methods whereby communities, dive companies, and even resorts can actively protect distinct sections of coral reef from post-bleaching coral mortality through predator removal. In addition, we plan to couple this activity with the wider collection of fragments of unbleached heat-tolerant corals from reefs where manpower or logistics prevents effective predator control, to ensure their survival within coral nurseries. These corals will be cultivated into “mother colonies” and trimmed to produce second generation fragments at one year, for use in reinforcing patches of climate-adapted reef created by regular predator control interventions.
If anyone in a severely bleached area has the resources to trial either of these activities (predator removal or collection/ cultivation of non-bleached corals), it would be good to work together to implement similar experimental methods (with proper control sites for comparison), in order to develop a larger data set.
Our other Global Giving project: Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment (in support of community-based MPAs), has raised the funds to start the project in Vanuatu, and we have also succeeded in distributing over 7 thousand village-appropriate chicks to Fijian communities, including remote communities on Taveuni, Vanua Levu, and Kadavu islands, including Fiji’s oldest community-based and legally gazetted MPA, at Ono, Kadavu. You can read the reports (and donate) at: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/happy-chickens-for-food-security-and-environment-1/
Sincere thanks to all who support these two out-of-the-box projects that would otherwise not be possible.