Coral Restoration: In Its Early Stages

Having just seen a headline about “experts” wondering if coral reefs will survive global warming, I am happy to discover that at least 1 group is not waiting to act until all the coral is dead. The Coral Restoration Foundation (DAN) is growing coral and enticing scuba diving volunteers to help “plant” them.

I first heard of CRF from Alert Diver magazine, published by the Diver’s Assistance Network (DAN). My husband and I have been members of DAN for years, and I actually tried to get Alert Diver to accept an article about my early diving experiences. The editor muttered a few things via email about how he didn’t know what to say about all the safety problems with my first 20 dives (nothing much, just diving to 100 feet on my seventh dive ever, or losing my instructor on my PADI certification dive).

In “Rising from the Rubble” (Alert Diver, winter 2010), Bill Harrigan describes the problems with coral restoration—and the joys of watching coral retake an area. One problem:

while transplanting staghorn coral is a good way to repair limited damage sites, it’s not an effective solution to regenerating large areas. Part of the reason for this limitation is the “rob Peter to pay Paul” aspect of transplanting. Where do you take coral from to transplant it to another area?

One solution has been to rescue corals from construction sites. … almost 200 corals were harvested from a Navy seawall prior to a dredging project in Key West. … Since its inception in 2003, the project has rescued nearly 7,000 corals and coral fragments.

It turns out that corals harvested from seawalls and harbors are resilient. In an episode of coral bleaching, for instance, a few of the corals will survive. Those corals are more resilient in that they are able to deal with rising ocean temperatures. The corals harvested from the seawalls are resilient because, I suspect, they get a lot of “traffic.” The research being done now on coral restoration focuses on identifying those resilient corals and figuring out ways to make more of them.

If only corals could be rescued and then divided like plants. According to the article in Alert Diver, you can grow your own coral if you manage to harvest larva during a mass spawning. Not quite as easy as growing your own tomato seedlings, but doable.

If you are a scuba diver looking for an adventure, I suggest helping with coral restoration. I’d do it myself, but I don’t think I’m quite experienced enough at 36 dives, especially since I haven’t been diving since 2007.

Time for a refresher!