Florida Keys Coffee Shop
Key Largo, FL, USA
Coral Reefs are living marine ecosystems shaped by calcium carbonate structure. They reside in the shallow coastal regions of tropical and subtropical areas. While they occupy a minimal area of the vast ocean floor, they contain a very high share of the sea’s biodiversity.
Today, this complex and rich ecosystem faces danger by global warming, weather events, diseases, dredging, pollution, illegal collecting and ship grounding. The coral reefs within reach of the bays face degradation due to sedimentation, bleaching, and over-fishing.
The coral reefs are important for a broad range of ecosystem services. The conservation and restoration of the reefs are essential to maintaining them. The additional benefits of restoring and conserving the coral reefs include:
Nearly one-third of the world’s fish species reside in the reefs. Many of the species living in the reefs are used to produce medicines.
The Reefs have a high income from recreational and tourism activities.
Many Restoration projects are in process across the globe whose primary purpose is to conserve and restore the Reefs. Aquaculture research progress has made it possible to populate aquarium exhibits. Also, many Coral aquaculture techniques have been developed to create corals to restore the Reefs. The research towards restoration also focuses on the aspects of species selection, genetic identification, health assessment, gamete collection and culture and various drug treatments for the common coral diseases.
Corals grow and reproduce both sexually and asexually, meaning that other than spawning, it can also grow through fragmentation, i.e., if a branch falls off, it can reattach itself and cultivate a separate colony, given the right conditions. Most of the restoration programs use this fundamental characteristic of the Corals to restore the Reefs everywhere. They try to collect branches of the coral, raise them in nurseries and reattach them.
The first step is to rescue all the coral pieces that have broken off from the reef, some fall to the seagrass beds, and some get caught in the fishing nets. Unless rescued at the right time, these fragmented corals usually die.The ‘nurseries’ are usually tree structures made of PVC pipe that is tethered to the ocean floor and made to float.
Rescued coral pieces grow on the ‘nurseries’ by attaching them from the ‘branches’ using a monofilament line. While this is a popular way, some projects might also take the rescued pieces to an offshore nursery and grow them there.
After 6-9 months, once the corals have grown to a substantial size, they are taken to the reef restoration site where they are attached to the reef using a non-toxic epoxy.
Given that the Coral Reefs is a vital ecosystem, public action needs to be taken to restore it. Nearly every primary or secondary Reef is attached to some other restoration program. Hopefully, the efforts will stick, and we will be able to enjoy the beauty of coral reefs for years to come.