Corals have died on a massive scale in recent years due to warming oceans. In 2015-16, the worse global coral bleaching event in history killed off >90% of corals on some reefs. However, a few "super" corals survived even in the hot waters, but these "genetic treasures" are now being killed off by coral predators. The project involves communities and resorts in predator removal, creation of nurseries of resilient corals, and out-planting second generation bleaching resistant corals to reefs.
The massive global coral bleaching crisis worsened again in 2018-19, due to unusually hot waters from El Nino. In bleaching, the corals lose their brown micro-algae and they usually starve to death. Without corals, the reefs provide poor fish habitat and communities suffer. In the mass bleaching of 2000 in Fiji, we saw that 10% of the corals did not bleach, but unfortunately these surviving corals were subsequently killed by over-abundant predators, such as crown of thorns starfish, COTS.
Our goal is to prevent reef collapse and extinctions due to increasing temperatures, by rescuing heat-adapted corals from hot pocket reefs where long-term survival is jeopardized. Grown within cooler water nurseries, the corals are trimmed and used to create patches of bleaching resistant corals, which in turn spread resilience to the wider reef system. Restored corals increase fish habitat within community no-fishing areas, and our 'happy chickens' project gives an alternative protein to fish.
We now have established project sites in seven island nations, with 19 coral nurseries established and >100 trained. Communities and resorts are being empowered to save thousands of corals that are resistant to warm water bleaching, but that can not survive within hot pockets, or after mass bleaching events due to over-abundant coral predators. Effective coral breeding has been restored, spreading success, and "Coral Gardener" has been created as a new profession for resorts,
This project has provided additional documentation in a DOCX file (projdoc.docx).