Campaign match icon Donations to this project are eligible for a 300% match as part of the HOPE FOR CORALS campaign! (while funds remain)

Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching

by Corals for Conservation
Play Video
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching
Fiji diver descends to giant clam
Fiji diver descends to giant clam
Workshop: A-frame Planting
Workshop: A-frame Planting
An Astounding Accomplishment:  69 people trained in Coral Reef Adaption at our International Workshops since April! 

This year we had a record number of volunteers with as many as nine at a time in the site from several countries! With all the extra hands we accomplished a lot of work in the coral nurseries.   Our volunteers were also instrumental in refining our training curriculum. Four major workshops were completed in the past quarter, plus the volunteer interns, we trained 90 people in total!   In May and June, one-week "coral champions" workshops were completed with a Fiji focus, training ten fisheries officers, NGO staff, and recent marine biology graduates.  In August, we carried out an international workshop that included 7 from Papua New Giuinea, 5 from Samoa many more from Fiji, and even some from Germany, USA, and Australia. Thanks to funds given by UNEP and DFAT, airfares into Fiji and workshop expenses were covered.  During this workshop we were able to establish a whole new site in the east of Fiji a hundred miles distant from the Malolo sites, at Leleuvia island, thanks to the additional funding!  In early November, a workshop focused on coral restoration for climate change adaptation and the tourism industry was held using funds from the US Embassy.  This workshop trained 8 Fijian participants already working in the tourism industry and 8 more marine science university graduates who are currently unemployed.  Attending the workshop gave these enthusiastic coral champions field experience and will boost their CV's.

An Amazing Number of Corals trimmed and planted in the Outer Barrier Reef Gene Bank:

At the workshops volunteers trimmed the amazing numbers of corals in the gene bank nurseries and used all of these excess corals to establish two new sites in the outer barrier reef.  The area is 14km long by several hundred km wide.  The entire backreef had been badly degraded by mass bleaching and cyclones in years past.  Larger corals and branches were densely planted onto A-frames to create instant fish habitat within "nucleation patches", rather than planting small corals over wider areas. The fish moving into the corals will help keep the corals free of algae, sand, and silt, and help the corals grow well.  The fish will hopefully also clean the areas surrounding the corals and cause the bare clean rocks to attract incoming coral larvae, so the coral patches will grow over time.   With two sites completed, we then moved to establish as many as we could before the hot coral bleaching season, which started in January. 

Outer Reef Sites Tested by Mother Nature's Big Waves:  Lessons Learned

The first of our new outer reef sites was established in an area where every month or two, some very big waves roll over the site.  This was done intentionally, in order to test our methods against cyclones, which will inevitably impact all of the outer reef.  The other sites are not nearly so high energy, and will only experience such big waves during cyclones, but we need to learn what methods are able to withstand cyclone waves and currents.   A few weeks after we put in the A-frames, fish house structures, and other methods, HUGE waves hit the site, and several A-frames flipped and several rope outplant trials were destroyed.   Fortunately, none of the cemented corals were impacted, neither were the A-frames anchored into the reef framework.  We have used these lessons to further harden the site and to learn methods that will resist cyclones in the other more protected areas of the restoration zone. 

Major Milestone with Bleaching-resistant Super Corals Sharing Resistant Super-Algae:

So this is a major milestone: our bleaching resistant super corals are finally being moved onto the cooler outer barrier reef!  This will allow them to share their resistant algae with other corals, and spread the resilience to incoming coral larvae, which come in without their symbiotic algae.  So now there is a source of resistant super-algae on the outer reef, which can be shared!  When the next marine heat wave arrives and mass bleaching hits, our corals and hopefully the juvenile corals that settle nearby, will not bleach!    

Much progress is being made with our cooler outer-reef stategies which can ultimately add decades to coral reef and species survival.  The richness of the entire marine ecosystem is vital--Corals for Conservation is proving that a mono-culture coral bed is not the answer.  Interest in our discoveries and practical low-cost/ high indigenous community involvement model is getting attention throughout the South Pacific.  The demand for the training sessions is very high.  While additional resources are now coming in, they are not sufficient for the increased workload and for giving stipends to marine biology graduates.
 
Announcing HOPE FOR CORALS:  Starting January 1st and ending March 31st, your gifts of any amount will receive an astounding 300% bonus.  An incentive fund of $10,000 has been made available to Corals for Conservation by GlobalGiving in part because our work answers an urgent need for mankind and the corals which bring life.  Without GlobalGiving and donors like you, we would not be able to continue! 

Vinaka Vakalevu!       Austin

Workshop: A-frame Planting

Workshop: A-frame Planting

Nursery: Purple digitate acropora ready for a trim

Nursery: Purple digitate acropora ready for a trim
Giant clam with opalescent colors
Giant clam with opalescent colors
Fiji diver with paddle beside palm
Fiji diver with paddle beside palm
Austin, Annelise and Wilson
Austin, Annelise and Wilson
Coral Workshop A-frame Planting
Coral Workshop A-frame Planting
Purple digitate acropora ready for trim
Purple digitate acropora ready for trim
Coral Workshop Shallow Water training
Coral Workshop Shallow Water training
Coral Group happy with new skills learned
Coral Group happy with new skills learned
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
June Workshop Participants
June Workshop Participants

An Astounding Accomplishment:  90 people trained in Coral Reef Adaption at our International Workshops

We have been very busy.   With nine volunteers in the site from several countries, we accomplished a lot of work in the coral nurseries.   We also successfully carried out three major workshops in the past quarter for 90 people in total!  In May and June, we conducted one-week workshops with a Fiji focus, training "coral champions" training ten fisheries officers, NGO staff, and recent marine biology graduates.  In August we carried out an international workshop that included 7 from Papua New Giuinea and 5 from Samoa and others from Germany, USA, and Australia, and many more from Fiji.  We have refined the curriculum and improved the course.  Thanks to funds given by UNEP and DFAT, airfares into Fiji and workshop expenses were all covered.  We also were able to establish a whole new site in the east of Fiji a hundred miles distant from the Malolo sites, at Leleuvia island, thanks to the additional funding! 

An Amazing Number of Corals trimmed and planted in the Outer Barrier Reef Gene Bank:

At the workshops volunteers trimmed the amazing numbers of corals in the gene bank nurseries and used all of these excess corals to establish two new sites in the outer barrier reef.  The area is 14km long by several hundred km wide.  The entire backreef had been badly degraded by mass bleaching and cyclones in years past.  Larger corals and branches were densely planted onto A-frames to create instant fish habitat within "nucleation patches", rather than planting small corals over wider areas. The fish moving into the corals will help keep the corals free of algae, sand, and silt, and help the corals grow well.  The fish will hopefully also clean the areas surrounding the corals and cause the bare clean rocks to attract incoming coral larvae, so the coral patches will grow over time.   With two sites complete, we plan to establish as many as we can over the coming months, and well before the hot coral bleaching season, which starts in January. 

Outer Reef Sites Tested by Mother Nature's Big Waves:  Lessons Learned

The first of our new outer reef sites was established in an area where every month or two, some very big waves roll over the site.  This was done intentionally, in order to test our methods against cyclones, which will inevitably impact all of the outer reef.  The other sites are not nearly so high energy, and will only experience such big waves during cyclones, but we need to learn what methods are able to withstand cyclone waves and currents.   A few weeks after we put in the A-frames, fish house structures, and other methods, HUGE waves hit the site, and several A-frames flipped and several rope outplant trials were destroyed.   Fortunately, none of the cemented corals were impacted, neither were the A-frames anchored into the reef framework.  We have used these lessons to further harden the site and to learn methods that will resist cyclones in the other more protected areas of the restoration zone. 

Major Milestone with Bleaching-resistant Super Corals Sharing Resistant Super-Algae:

So this is a major milestone: our bleaching resistant super corals are finally being moved onto the cooler outer barrier reef!  This will allow them to share their resistant algae with other corals, and spread the resilience to incoming coral larvae, which come in without their symbiotic algae.  So now there is a source of resistant super-algae on the outer reef, which can be shared!  When the next marine heat wave arrives and mass bleaching hits, our corals and hopefully the juvenile corals that settle nearby, will not bleach!    

GlobalGiving Funds from Little by Little Matching, coupled with an existing source, made it possible for Corals for Conservation to order a locally made fiberglass boat:

In other news:  we ran into a serious problem with boats and access to the offshore sites in our main Malolo sites.  The Resort boat we have been allowed to use for the past 2+ years has a broken engine, and so we have had to rent boats -  $250. FJD for a half day.  Therefore, we began searching for a good boat with an engine, as we had gotten 8K in the UNEP budget, and we put that with GlobalGiving Funds. Last week we ordered a locally made fiberglass boat and 60HP engine, plus canopy to shade the corals!  We will still need to fundraise for fuel, as it is so expensive now, but we are on our way to more permanent solutions!  We invite our donors to consider becoming recurring donors, and your gift will be matched after 3 months of loyalty.  As the key winter fundraising months approach, you'll already be on board!  How great is that!

Implementation of our Coral Adaptive Strategies are Yielding Valuable Data with World-wide Significance:

Much progress is being made with our cooler outer-reef stategies which can ultimately add decades to coral reef and species survival.  The richness of the entire marine ecosystem is vital--Corals for Conservation is proving that a mono-culture coral bed is not the answer.  Interest in our discoveries and practical low-cost/ high indigenous community involvement model is getting attention throughout the South Pacific.  The demand for the training sessions is very high.  While additional resources are now coming in, they are not sufficient for the increased workload and for giving stipends to marine biology graduates. Without GlobalGiving and donors like you, we would not be able to continue! 

Vinaka Vakalevu! 

Making ropes for a new nursery
Making ropes for a new nursery
August International Workshop
August International Workshop
A-frame outer reef out-planting experiments
A-frame outer reef out-planting experiments
Super coral A-frames planted to the outer reef
Super coral A-frames planted to the outer reef
The Genebank SO MUCH is ready for trimming
The Genebank SO MUCH is ready for trimming
Learning together!
Learning together!
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Two of our Fijian Coral Gardening Mermaids!
Two of our Fijian Coral Gardening Mermaids!

Mermaids and Mermen Helping our Coral Reefs:

43 Mermaids and Mermen, many indigenous South Pacific islanders, converged in Fiji for an intensive workshop led by marine scientist, Austin Bowden-Kerby, Phd and Mergeezer! 

In all seriousness, we succeeded in carrying out a coral restoration for climate change adaptation intensive workshop for 20 students on 22-28 May. Due to immense interest and requests, another is scheduled from 5-11th June for the next wave of 23 eager participants!  

It summary the total students were:  10 from the Ministry of Fisheries, one from Ministry of Youth, five youth leaders, one outer island police officer, five from local NGOs (Vatuvara Foundation, GVI, and Pacific Blue Foundation),  five from US NGOs and two from a Caribbean NGO,  four indigenous staff from resorts, two German interns, one Kiribati intern, and nine indigenous marine studies university graduates = 43 in total.

Instruction Held on Land and Sea:

The intense study took place in the classroom and on the coral reefs both, with a major achievement during the workshop being the initiation of our first coral outplanting site on the outer barrier reef system of Malolo District- the Great Sea Reef of Fiji (Cakau Levu in Fijian).  The 14 km long section of the outer reef that we are planning to begin restoration strategies on is located in clean clear, cooler waters, but it is surprisingly mostly dead, due to repeated bleaching events and the increasing numbers of cyclones. The original corals there were too heat sensitive to survive, so we are now using heat adapted bleaching resistant corals to establish restoration patchers on it.

Tabulate Coral Emergency Rescue Necessary because of Damage from Unsupervised Tourists:

Another activity on the glorious Nuku Reef, surveyed the impact of snorkel tourism businesses, which have recently begun coming to the site, after two years being closed due to the pandemic.  We surveyed a third of the reef and found 31 impacted sites, where tourists had stood on the reef and smashed the fragile table or tabulate corals. The workshop trainees collected 110 big fragments, using them to fill in outplanting frames for the new great sea reef site.  Our highly respected indigenous liaison will be part of the team compiling and sharing a report on the tragedy for the government, community, and businesses responsible.  Then discussions will be held with the community and government on setting aside this spectacular reef, with bleaching resistant corals as a no-take reserve with restrictions on unsupervised snorkeling. 

Kind regards to all our GlobalGiving supporters--loyal monthly donors, plus wonderful  browsers with giftcards, and so many others of you who recognize the difference of Corals for Conservations hands-on approach for educating native stewards. You are a vital component for both our financial planning and also our ability to respond quickly.,

 BIG thank yous go out to Plantation Island Resort for the site support, and to UNEP for helping with the funding.

German and Kiribati Interns Participate!
German and Kiribati Interns Participate!
First out-planted restoration patch on Cakau Levu.
First out-planted restoration patch on Cakau Levu.
Tabulate corals on Nuku Reef!
Tabulate corals on Nuku Reef!
Broken table corals rescued and planted to A-frame
Broken table corals rescued and planted to A-frame
Coral Gene bank Nursery
Coral Gene bank Nursery
Planting corals on the boat!
Planting corals on the boat!
Some of the group!
Some of the group!
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Yes the coral reefs are still live!
Yes the coral reefs are still live!

Yet another ocean heat wave approaches Fiji from the West. The deep ocean is already at 29C (84F) and some nearshore areas are at 31C (88F) ins.  Fiji has gone from bleaching watch to bleaching warning, with a few colonies already showing stress, and the more major coral bleaching is predicted to hit by March, peaking in April and possibly continuing into May.  With the hotter than normal ocean temperature, the formation of cyclones is more likely as well.  We spent the month of December preparing the coral sites for the approaching bleaching and possible cyclones.  In January a cyclone brushed past us and cooled the waters down some, but it did little damage to the reefs and nurseries, rather helped by removing some pesky overgrowing seaweeds that the fish don't like to eat!

Our Indigenous Corals for Conservation's team, (six women and one man), headed by our two skilled marine scientists, Sarah and Merekeleni, and including five local university marine studies graduates, worked intensely with C4C project scientist Austin, to prepare the 'super coral' nurseries filled with bleaching resistant corals, to prepare the nurseries for possible storm generated currents and waves.  Concerned that currents would exert excessive drag force on the corals suspended on ropes, we removed the largest colonies from the coral genebank nurseries.  Still attached to their ropes, we planting them to the reef using the pegged-rope method, as whole colonies onto barren reef rock. Each genotype was also trimmed and replanted as smaller fragments back to the nursery, so that the gene bank would retain all the coral diversity we have collected over the past three years. The corals in the nurseries had all originally been collected from the nearshore hot pocket reefs, where the water can reach 34C in the summer, and these hot pocket corals were then moved into gene bank nurseries, located on the cooler middle barrier reef, where the water can get to 31C in the summer.  So as long as the temperature remains below 34C (93F), they should all be fine and will not likely bleach in even a severe mass bleaching, even if the corals around them on the reef bleach. 

We planted some of the ropes filled with corals from the nursery into a new experimental set up, planting them among thriving corals at Nuku Point reef, one of the most amazing reefs remaining, with high coral cover and especially thick in plate forming corals, a species that is among the first to die out from climate change.  But why would we plant more corals to where corals are already so abundant?  This was done to test the hypothesis that heat adapted super corals can spread their resistance to their neighbors.  The background to this is that it is the microalgae in the corals, which they rely on for photosynthesis and their food, that are so impacted by the heat, and so it is actually super algae that are responsible for bleaching resistance in most corals!  So in the coming months, we will likely see a big contrast in bleaching susceptability between the extremely heat resistant coral patches that we have created and the less heat resistant corals naturally found on the reef, with the less resistant native corals losing their brown algae and turning white.  But if they do survive, our hope is that they will pick up some of the algae that is known to leak out of the neighbors, and with super algae in the neighborhood, when they re-color, will they pick up the super algae and thus become bleaching resistant and adapted for the next rounds of bleaching in the summers to come, and as the planet continues to warm?  

CRW Regional Image

 

Two film makers came from Los Angeles to record the work, so this drama is now on film, and so this drama will in time be available for all to see via the internet, so that the lessons we learn can be incorporated into the work of other restoration projects, short-cutting the time it takes to publish data. 

In January, despite being triple vaccinated, I came down with Covid-19, which I contracted as the result of helping send off our film makers, while getting them their pre-flight test at the local hospital, everyone waiting for pre-flight tests were together with others who were suspected of having the virus, also waiting for their test!   Alas, I was swept up by the wave of Omicron virus which is traveling nearly as fast as a tsunami across Fiji.  The filmmakers also came down with COVID after returning home.  What started out as a mild case, took a turn for the worse, but I am grateful to have survived, so that I may continue to devote my life to helping corals survive! 

Loud blasts were heard in our coral reef sites from the recent massive volcanic explosion in Tonga.  The vocanic eruption was over 800km (500 miles) away, nevertheless it sounded like a war for 30 minutes, and within two hours a tsunami reached Fiji's shores- our sites were fine, as we are sheltered behind the outer barrier reefs, which absorbed the waves.  Some Fijian villages on islands closer to Tonga were impacted and some homes were destroyed, but mostly it was a only a foot or two of seawater washing through the coastal villages, invading some homes.  The resulting ash cloud arrived over the coming days, and our internet was very glitchy.  Whether related to the volcano or not, rain started here, about a week after the explosion and had been nearly incessant since, with dry breaks lasting only a few hours at a time. Yesterday major flooding occurred and several towns were under water, with people forced to evacuate their homes. The power also failed yesterday, and just came back this morning at 4am. Nearby Australia and New Zealand are also experiencing major flooding, so I am wondering if the SO2 from the volcano has super-charged the La Nina weather patterns?  Or did so much water vapor get injected into the atmosphere that it all has to come out as rain?  Will these thick clouds and rain now also cause the bleaching to be less severe?   Stay tuned! 

In closing, I want to pay a bit of attention to Tuvalu, the tiny nation to the north of Fiji, where we have established five coral nurseries in the past, but where we can not get back to, due to the total lack of flights due to the pandemic.  The youth we helped train in 2018-19, formed a registered NGO, "Fuligafou" (new beginnings), and they are continuing with the coral work and environmental work, through a grant from the Australian Embassy- with a plan to expand the work now to Nui Atoll! Tuvalu remains one of the few places on earth without a single case of the virus. Tuvalu is also one of the nations expected to disappear due to climate change and sea level rise, which is now coming up at 5mm per year- an inch every 5 years!  COP26, the big intergovernmental meeting in Scotland late last year was a big failure for the most part, but the foreign minister of Tuvalu sent a message to the conference, and I wanted to share a photo of his presentation with you.  What better way to show that sea level rise is very real.  Tuvalu and all nations have a right to survive into the future, and coral reefs also have that right.  Coral reefs have formed entire island nations, and the health and growth of corals are needed to keep them above the waves. However, nearly half of those attending COP26 represented big oil interests, and so it is not surprising that many governments continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. Therefore, we need every individual to exercise their vote and lifestyle if possible to transform the global economic system, from a carbon based economy to a carbon negative one, filled with trees and expanding forests and corals and thriving coral reefs.  Otherwise, with business as usual, the coral reefs will soon all be gone- within a short 30-50 years, and the oceans may even die, and that would stop the production of up to 70% of the planet's oxygen, jeopardizing humanity.  Pacific Island nations, and the coral reefs we depend on are positioned on the very frontline of what must become a war on climate change!  We at C4C are focused on developing war plans and battle strategies, and one day we hope to have the troops, generals, weapons, and ammunition required to win this war.  But we also must starve the enemy of its fuel- which is carbon pollution! 

 Thanks for giving us the resources to continue this struggle!     

   
Overgrow nursery frame in need of trimming!
Overgrow nursery frame in need of trimming!
New A-frame Nursery for Heat Testing of Corals
New A-frame Nursery for Heat Testing of Corals
Deploying Temperature Loggers
Deploying Temperature Loggers
Planting corals into heat stress testing site
Planting corals into heat stress testing site
Pocillopora Bleaching Resistance Test
Pocillopora Bleaching Resistance Test
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Planting heat adapted corals for the nursery
Planting heat adapted corals for the nursery

image.png
I begin with the powerful visual of NOAA graph which show we are further over the cliff than most of us realize. Kiritimati (Christmas Island) was the most intensive ocean temperatures of anywhere in history it seems, although only for ten months.  This is not surprising, since the area lies directly on the equator. Kiribati is now clearly the leading edge in what is predicted to be the collapse of coral reefs globally from climate change.  Kiribati is therefore the place to learn as many lessons as possible in our race to help prevent this mass die off of corals on other reefs globally. 
 
Thanks to all of our donors for bringing our shared concern for the health and the future of coral reefs to the forefront by donating your time and dollars.  In the news phrases appear like: the hottest July ever recorded, rain falling in Greenland where formerly snow only was seen, Antarctica's iceshelf rapidly melting--so much so that the fresh water is weakening ocean currents, and mention of an astounding heatwave in Siberia.  What's next?  Yes, some glimpses of the future stresses upon the earth are already visible, like receding glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas exposing bare ground and ultimately taking away the water resource for many peoples.
Yet corals are painted in a softer pallet and they lie beneath the surface where most people can't observe critical changes.  Formerly common corals have become rare and even locally extinct, depriving colorful reef fish of homes and impacting indigenous communities which survive by grace off the coral reef.  
Backstory of Corals Endangered from Bleaching
Over five years ago, I reached out to you in the face of an unpredented coral bleaching emergency.  Here we are years later with more coral gardeners toiling earnestly around the globe, but emergency is still in the title--the state of urgency has not been alleviated.
Searching for super corals among the dead corals
The story of Kiribati and the 2015-2016 mass bleaching is where we started, and where scientists are learning what the future might be and how to better preserve reef diversity.  The saddest part of the tale is had we only known the waters would be so hot as to cause fish die-offs, then we could have moved precious corals to cooler, deeper areas.  Now that lesson is learned, and with your help, the fight continues to do just that--acting the sooner the better to protect and preserve threatened coral beds.
With Larval Dispersal Compromised, Reefs need Help to Reproduce
Many species of Acropora corals have been lost from the Line Islands, Kiribati, since the 2016 severe ten-month mass bleaching event, the most intense bleaching event ever recorded in the NOAA data series.  With no reefs directly upcurrent, where larvae might recruit from, these locally
extinct species have little chance of returning unassisted- within my lifetime at least. Surviving remnants are so few and far apart that sexual reproduction has obviously failed. Could a similar problem be emerging for other reefs globally, especially at the fringes of present coral
distribution, and for reefs likewise isolated from upcurrent coral larval sources?
Of the Acropora species originally found on Kiritimati (Christmas) Atoll, after several years of searching, we have found a total of 5 acropora species persisting, out of 13 original species. Two of the Acropora species, *A. globiceps* and *A. retusa*, have in recent years been recognized and listed as threatened corals internationally.
Second Generation Fragments Replanted into Multi-Genetic Patches
We have collected samples of all the surviving Acropora species that could be found on the atoll, however only a few genotypes are available for some species.  Using the sampled fragments, we have created a coral nursery in a sheltered area with good water flow.  Adult colonies now are growing and likely spawning seasonally in the nursery, and second generation fragments have also been replanted into multi-genetic patches on the reef, in hopes of re-booting successful spawning and natural recovery processes. We predict that these survivors are more bleaching resistant than those corals which died. The Kiritimati case study is included as chapter 17 of the new book, "Active Coral Restoration, Techniques for a Changing Planet", edited
by Dr. David Vaughn.
Measure Success by Securing Diversity and Resilience
In the new climate change realities that we now face, I believe that coral reef restoration must become more focused on endangered species recovery and on nurturing bleaching resistance and disease resistance among diverse corals, as well as restoring sexual reproduction, so that natural adaptive
processes are encouraged. 
 Rather than "upscaling" restoration based on the numbers of fragments planted per square meter, I think we should measure success based on securing diversity and resilience within declining or threatened coral species, helping secure and restore reproductive and ecologically functioning coral populations, which in turn facilitate
natural recovery processes. We can not replant the whole reef, and we must ask ourselves if what we replant today will survive a rapidly warming world?  Are we imposing a technology on the reef system that will increase coral cover now, but that is ultimately doomed when mass bleaching hits, or are we working to increase bleaching resistance within the coral population that will hopefully spread, buying us precious time, while the world
struggles to bring climate change under control?
Lesson Learned:  Move Coral Samples to Cooler Waters Now
Most importantly, I think that we now need to invest energy into ensuring long term survival of our most resilient coral populations, which may already exist at the upper limit of thermal tolerance.  Unfortunately, Kiribati shows us that these most resistant corals are just as vulnerable
to mass bleaching events, as the shallow lagoon waters can become superheated and exceed the maximum heat threshold of all corals.  If we had only gotten to Kiritimati Atoll before the bleaching induced mass die-off in 2015-16, we might have saved multiple genotypes of the most resistant corals of the lagoon from local extinction- simply by moving coral samples
out to cooler waters near the passes and establishing them within 
nurseries.   But alas, the entire population of bleaching resistant corals died out when the water became so hot that even the fish died.  Just imagine a large lagoon covered in thickets of dead and standing staghorn and massive corals- all we could find alive after a day of searching was one small colony of foliose Montipora.
Race Against Time in Fiji:  Capitalize on Time-Sensitive Opportunity
Learning from this tragedy, in Fiji we now focus on identifying hot pockets on the reef and inshore that are near the upper limit of thermal tolerance, and sampling those corals, moving them out to cooler water nurseries where even in severe condition two bleaching, temperatures will never go above the threshold for these specific corals.  But this is a race against time, and ours is only a tiny effort when compared to the scale of the reefs and the numbers of nearshore and shallow lagoon hot pockets in Fiji, the region, and globally.  Unless this is recognized as a time sensitive opportunity, within a decade, most of these heat adapted coral populations will be gone.

Even if we can solve the climate crisis with massive changes in production and consumption, unless coral restoration efforts can begin to visualize conditions 10-20 or even 30 years into the future, will they succeed? Based on clear trends, many of the Acropora species that we are working with now will likely be the first to go, becoming threatened species or locally extinct in our lifetimes.  Right now, we continue to have a range of species and genotypes with broad thermal and disease tolerances to work with.  But as the die-offs arrive, unless heat adapted corals that are
presently living near their upper thermal limits are secured, we stand to lose much of this diversity of resilience that is so important to long term coral reef survival.

Our team of volunteers, lead by Indigenous marine biologists, Sara Makutu and Merekeleni Tinai are in the field, at our Plantation Island Resort partnership site, working hard six days a week to carry forward the work to create a model coral reef adaptation for climate change site (recent photos attached).  We will welcome self-funded researchers and students to join us in our sites, once the planes start flying again in this region--maybe this November?  For those searching for a topic along the lines of ecological restoration or facilitated adaptation, we have a long list of research questions that might help pin down a research topic of global relevance.  
For all of you who labor and give to sustain corals, you merit the thanks of our shared planet,

Vinaka,

Austin
October team over a gene bank nursery
October team over a gene bank nursery
Overgrown nursery prior to trimming
Overgrown nursery prior to trimming
Nuku reef, our most pristine remaining site
Nuku reef, our most pristine remaining site
One of many new restoration sites
One of many new restoration sites
Trimmed heat-resistant corals for out-planting
Trimmed heat-resistant corals for out-planting
Our Fiji model site for coral reef adaptation!
Our Fiji model site for coral reef adaptation!
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Corals for Conservation

Location: Samabula - Fiji
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Austin Bowden-Kerby
Samabula, Fiji
$104,830 raised of $125,000 goal
 
1,346 donations
$20,170 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate

Corals for Conservation has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.