Last month the CRM volunteers from Batch 274 participated in a sponsored seminar with our counterparts. I’m mostly without an official counterpart, but I brought my counterpart/supervisor/nanay with me, as she’s the best 3 in 1 this country has ever seen (this country knows a lot about 3 in 1s). This was a USAID sponsored seminar, and it was led by Dr. Filipina Sotto from the University of San Carlos Marine Research Station.
Known as coral aquaculture, coral farming, and coral gardening, the processes we learned can be used for both commercial purposes or for coral reef restoration. Though these strategies are still in their infancy regarding long term results and extensive research, coral gardening has shown promise as being a tool to combat the global decline of coral reefs. Coral gardening can be a lost cost method to assist corals in recovering after damages from typhoons or destructive human practices such as dynamite fishing or inappropriate anchor dropping.
Corals either produce sexually through spawning or asexually by building polyps. The most widely used method for sourcing coral “seedlings” for coral gardening is fragmentation, or finding broken off fragments of branching corals. These fragments are genetically an exact copy of the parent, so a downside to this method of coral gardening is that there is a lack of genetic diversity in your new coral nursery. After the creation of a harder substrate over time, it’s possible that diversity could return to your recovery site with the establishment of new corals.
Corals that have fragmented can be collected from the sandy silt bottom of the ocean and utilized for coral gardening. Corals often need a hard substrate, or bottom, for successful reef development and they often won’t recover if lying in a sand substrate. In our work with the USC Marine Biology Station, we went diving to collect these “corals of opportunity” and attached them to Coral Nursey Units in order to give them a better chance of recovery. These units lift them above the soft bottom substrate, and after a few months they can be cut from their lines and tied to nails driven directly into hard rock substrate at the bottom of the reef. Eventually, the corals will grow into the twisty-ties, nail, and rock to form a reef. Below is a photo showing the Coral Nursery Unit elevated above the sandy substrate.
To me it seems that humans are uniquely qualified to find strange and unusual ways to destroy the natural systems around us. Fracking, mountain top removal, dams along rivers, slash and burn agriculture, dynamite fishing…there is an endless list of inventive ways for how we destroy things. That list may be longer than the list of beautiful and creative ways in which we restore and revive, but every time I’m introduced to work like this I become hopeful. Seeing these young filipinos and filipinas from the University of San Carlos Marine Research Station lead this training and share their impressive knowledge was inspiring. I don’t know if they had green thumbs, blue thumbs, or what, but they’re doing great work and PC is lucky to partner with them each year (also, I stole a bunch of their photos, daghan salamat).
Here’s to planting clones, gardening underwater and using SCUBA in a productive way, being inspired all over again, having access to warm showers, and managing to see the first episode of Game of Thrones.