We’ve all heard about coral bleaching as being a huge problem nowadays, but how many people know what really occurs? In case you don’t, here’s a quick debrief: zooxanthellae are photosynthesizing algae that live inside of the coral, in a symbiotic relationship. The coral provides the algae with shelter, and the algae provide the coral with nutrients. When the ocean water gets warmer (e.g. as a result of climate change), corals become stressed and they react by expelling their zooxanthellae. This is what’s knows as coral bleaching.
While coral bleaching is a hugely destructive phenomenon worldwide, scientists have found ways to help restore corals by bringing back new, healthy cuttings to the bleached-out reefs. Small bits of healthy coral are grown in coral nurseries, usually on an underwater line or a cement block. When they get big enough, they are glued onto small disks, allowed to grow more, then transplanted back onto a reef.
I recently watched an interested video interview with Ken Nedimyer, a leading coral restoration scientist in the Florida Keys. In this video, he candidly explains the process of coral growth and transplantation, which is surprisingly simple, yet very effective – they estimate growth rates of 3000 percent in a year!
Coral Regeneration with Ken Nedimyer
Grow Reefs in Your Own Home
Coral scientists and resotration ecologists are not the only people who partake in coral restoration. Marine aquarists are so into the hobby of maintaining coral reef aquariums that they often create cuttings for their own purposes. It allows aquarists to grow their own corals and populate their tanks to make the tank look fuller. Many aquarists trade cuttings amongst each other to get different species in their tanks. Coral regeneration within the marine aquarium hobby is a great way to conserve coral reefs as an increase in aquarist coral cuttings would decrease the pressure of harvesting the coral from the wild. In addition, the aquarists learn about the biology of the organisms through the regeneration process. Check out the GARF (The Geothermal Aqurium Research Foundation) for more on how peopl can create coral cuttings for their own tanks.
(*If you’d like a refresher on coral reefs, their importance, impacts, urgency, etc. check out this article: Ocean Quest: The Race to Save the World’s Coral Reefs)
About the Author
Lauren Donnelly earned her B.Sc in Biology and International Development Studies from Dalhousie University and her M.Sc. in Integrated Water Resources Management from McGill University. She has vast work experience, most recently working in capacity building, climate change and ocean conservation in Jamaica. Lauren enjoys discussing and debating environmental issues, and translating scientific information for non-scientists.