Save Corals in Fiji by Moving to Cooler Outer Reef

by Corals for Conservation
Save Corals in Fiji by Moving to Cooler Outer Reef

Project Report | Apr 26, 2023
Coral Ecosystem Diversity Matters: Attracts Fish

By Austin Bowden-Kerby, Phd | Corals Scientist and Researcher for diverse reefs

Valuable puzzle piece for reef diversity
Valuable puzzle piece for reef diversity

Tropical fish enjoy the smorgasbord of a diverse coral reef.  Preserving and restoring when necessary coral ecosystem diversity is paramount to attracting many fish and marine reef species.  Every living creature on the reef has its role and thus quite frequently a symbiotic partner.  Just as animals of the forest depend on a choice of seasonal offerings for their survival, so do animals of the ocean shoals and tidepools need a dietary selection and a protective habitat.

Super Coral Miracles for Gene Nursery Propagation

Exciting finds headed to gene nursery
Exciting finds headed to gene nursery

 Excited to find a second genotype of pink Pocillopora meandrina thus far collected for the nursery- these fragments came from a 'super coral' which survived 14 months of hot waters which killed 99% of all the corals on Christmas Island, Kiribati. The brown coral is a species of Montipora.  (Austin 2017)
More grassroots organizations are now established on our favorite planet than ever before.  It's taken all of us who believe that science and nature and community action can bring about positive change.  The oceans and their precious reefs have a chance at survival because from the indigenous fishermen to the committed government officials, people around the globe are bonding and devoting their lives and resources to spare coral reefs from extinction.  Anything less than a goal of restoring ecological diversity is unthinkable.  The consequences of dying coral reefs would be a human disaster on a scale unimaginable.
Here's where Corals for Conservation has been, and here's where Corals for Conservation is going.
This summary of our mission is as true now as when introduced on the GlobalGiving Emergency Response to Mass Coral Bleaching project:
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 abundant coral predators. The project involves communities and resorts in coral predator removal, nursery propagation of resilient corals, and out-planting of second generation bleaching-resistant corals to reefs.
I am working on a plan to upscale all the lessons learned regionally, with a plan to save the coral reefs of each nation.  Each plan will be tailored to the present conditions and challenges and threats, and look towards the future.  On this, Kiribati is the most challenging, as they need restoration of locally extinct coral species, atoll by atoll, as their reefs are the most impacted, but if we can succeed there, we can succeed everywhere! 
Tuvalu has the least impacted coral reefs, and so they need to focus on moving corals out of hot pocket reef areas into cooler reefs, as they are the only nation without any major coral bleaching thus far, so the pre-adapted corals still survive!   Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, all need to secure their now declining species by creating gene bank nurseries and patches of reproductive corals, as well as focusing on COTS (Crown of Thorns Starfish) removal. 
French Polynesia needs to focus on restoring locally endangered Acropora corals to reefs where they formerly dominated, and which are now dominated by two species of cauliflower corals- Pocillopora.  Parrotfish there eat up the Acropora corals, and so the pass areas with abundant sharks (which chase away the parrotfish), need to be the focus initially.  
Our role needs to be that of providing workable solutions and a unified vision-  a way out of the current inaction- to save coral reefs from the imminent death they face, with the horrific impacts to our region.  
I am reminded of the great impact we have already had on the region when  community-based no-fishing sites were established in Cuvu as a partnership with the Shangri-La resort back in 2000.  That project resulted in five no-take Tabu areas, which were the first to be started on reefs in 80-100 years. This caused a transformation in thinking, a new vision, which spread throughout the country, with over 300 locally managed areas in Fiji by 2020, when COVID hit.  The movement also spread to Samoa and Vanuatu and all over. 
Now we have coral-focused adaptation strategies which can add resilience and functionality to these same tabu areas, which otherwise face the death of their coral populations.  This will put the local communities in the forefront of saving the planet's coral reefs from climate change, with positive impacts on food security and marine biodiversity.  
I'm heading back to Leleuvia to record the interesting preliminary results of experiments which use simple methods to get super algae into bleached corals!  
Vinaka with Warm Regards,
Austin boating precious supercorals to nursery
Austin boating precious supercorals to nursery
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Organization Information

Corals for Conservation

Location: Samabula - Fiji
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Austin Bowden-Kerby
Samabula , Fiji
$1,145 raised of $55,000 goal
9 donations
$53,855 to go
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