Corals are dying on a massive scale in marine heat waves in the South Pacific. Branching and tabulate Acropora corals, so vital as fish habitat, are now going extinct on some reefs. Where a few heat resistant "super corals" have survived, these genetic treasures risk being killed by rising temperatures and coral predators. The project involves communities and resorts in coral predator removal and rescue of resistant corals from hot-pocket reefs, propagating them within cooler water nurseries.
The massive global coral bleaching crisis worsened again in 2023, due to unusually hot waters. In bleaching, the corals lose their brown micro-algae which feed them, and they usually starve to death. Without corals, the reefs provide poor fish habitat and communities suffer. In past mass bleaching events in Fiji, 1-5% of branching 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 25 coral nurseries established and some 200 trained. Communities and resorts are being empowered to save thousands of corals that are resistant to warm water bleaching, but that can not survive long-term 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 PDF file (projdoc.pdf).