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Jan 28, 2016

Progress Report: Helping Corals Survive on Reefs After Massive Bleaching

Good news!  We have now raised over $2,600. for the project on Global Giving. 

In addition to our original contacts on Christmas Island in Kiribati, we now have active contacts with organizations in Hawaii; on Kauai, Oahu, and the Big island, with great interest in working together to get some proactive work going to save the surviving hot water tolerant corals which have just survived the severe bleaching event there. 

A NOAA funding opportunity has recently been announced for both international coral reefs and US coral reefs, and we plan to submit two proposals along the lines of this project, using the funds raised through Global Giving as matching funds.  In June, the project manager will attend the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu, to give a presentation on coral restoration.  If additional funds for a full-on Hawaii project are obtained, a side trip to Kauai and Hawaii islands will take place at that time, to present workshops with the local NGOs and to get sites established.  

A separate trip to Christmas Island would use up most of the funds thus far raised, so until we raise additional funds, we pan to coordinte a trip with the trip to Hawaii in June, stopping over for one week, as this island is a regular stop-over point on the journey between Fiji and Hawaii. 

For Vanuatu, a trip was paid for by the Happy Chicken Project in November.  As part of the trip, we were able to visit the Nakayelo community no-fishing areas and to observe the condition of the corals.  The lagoon is in need of coral restoration due to past bleaching and COTS infestation, and so a coral restoration workshop is planned for late February.

Here in Fiji we are entering the hot summer months, and the present El Nino is predicted to hold, so we are watching and waiting to see what develops, preparing to involve communities and NGOs as the need arises. 

Thanks again for your support for this novel approach to climate change adaptation- actively helping coral reefs survive into the future. 

Vinaka Vaka Levu!  

Oct 27, 2015

The Project work in Vanuatu Begins At Last!

Dear Friends and supporters of the Happy Chickens!

I leave for Vanuatu on November 4th!  The airfares were surprisingly inexpensive (US $320.), as my dates were flexible, and so this two week trip promises to be the first of several trips throughout the comng months. 

The communities on Efate and Tanna islands are prepared and have been patiently waiting for the commencement of the project.  We have had several local ni-Vanuatu volunteers arise to help, and our local NGO contacts will also be assisting on the ground with logistics. 

A primary goal of this first trip will be meeting the farmers and assessing the existing chicken flocks which have survived the hurricane and then making a work plan for meeting the specific community needs.  Other activities envisioned will be rooster exchanges between farmers to improve local breeding focks and the demonstration of Happy Chicken methods that strengthen the weak areas of traditional methods.  

Based on the knowledge gathered thus far, the chicken farming methods used in Vanuatu appear to be identical to those used by Fijian communities, with the major weak points being the survival of newly hatched chicks in the face of predators, the lack of shelter from heavy tropical rains, and the lack of a proper secure laying areas for the adult chickens. 

The major activity at this first point of introduction will be construction of mobile rearing cages to increase chick survival.  These secure pens are bottomless and allow acess to the ground for scratching and foraging, with the pens moved several times each day over grass and weeds.  The mother hens are allowed to keep their chicks in the pen, and remain with them for the first 2-3 weeks.  If chicks from an incubator are being raised, they must be put in a box at night for warmth for that initial period.  The mobile rearing cages are quite revolutionary in that they can quickly increase the productivity of chickens in the community, easily doubling chicken numbers within a year. The 1x2 meter pens are durible and can be used year after year and shared within the community. 

After struggling for months with Vanuatu and Fiji Biosecurity regulations and red tape, trying to get the chicks from our Fiji hatchery into Vanuautu, we have decided to work on long-term sustainability of the project by establishing improved breeding flocks in Vanuatu, just like we have done in Fiji.  We have been assured that we will eventually be successful in bringing in the improved Fiji chicks, but official protocols have to first be developed, which may take several more months.  I will meet directly with Vanuatu Officials while in country to try to speed up this process.

If we are able to access imported brown layer chicks in the capital, we will begin rearing this highy productive yet poorly adapted breed to adulthood, in preparation for our crossbreeding program that is focused on producing well adapted highly productive local chicken breeds.  We will also be on the lookout for unique local breeds that might be especially adapted to local conditions, for use in crossbreeding trials but also focusing on conserving them as unique heritage breeds, to be conserved as unmixed stock by particuar families and communities. 

I will post another report on the outcomes of this exciting trip next month, after I return from the field.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  

Thank you again for your kind, generous, and loving support!

Austin        

Oct 27, 2015

Letter to NOAA's Coral List

Dear Friends,

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. 

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emergency-response-to-massive-coral-bleaching/

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.

Austin

 
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