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 has 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.
We have developed coral gardening techniques that are both effective and low cost, being featured on BBC and Discovery Channel, etc., and reported in the scientific literature. Working with communities and resorts, we conduct workshops and implement a 'super coral' nursery program focusing on rescuing and cultivating heat-adapted corals. Communities are also establishing no-fishing areas around the restoration sites, and our 'happy chickens' project gives an alternative protein to fish.
Communities and resorts are being empowered to save the lives of thousands of corals that are resistant to warm water bleaching, but that can not survive the onslaught of over-abundant coral predators without help. Patches of heat-adapted corals are restored to reefs, planted as second-generation fragments trimmed from the nurseries. Five villages in Fiji, four villages in Kiribati, and four villages in Tuvalu are impacted, and "Coral Gardener" has been created as a new profession for resorts.
This project has provided additional documentation in a DOCX file (projdoc.docx).