Nature conservation organizations in St. Maarten, Saba, Statia and Turks and Caicos will soon start planting structures made from bamboo and rope in their marine parks with the objective to regenerate coral species severely depleted over the last few decades.
The focus will be on Elkhorn and staghorn corals, species which are fast growing and relatively insensitive to sediment, a significant factor affecting coral on all of the islands, said Nature Foundation in a press release. With this project the participants hope to create new reefs. Nature Foundation, Saba Conservation Foundation, St. Eustatius National Park Stenapa and Turks and Caicos Reef Fund are now in the process of selecting the exact locations.
The project is managed by the Marine Park Management Organizations, Wageningen University/ IMARES in cooperation with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and funded by the European Union (EU).
The plan is to source small coral fragments from so-called mother colonies of Elkhorn and Staghorn coral on the islands. The fragments will then be hung on locally developed ladder-like, flexible structures that are placed under water with at least five structures being deployed per island. The trees can be removed to prevent them from being damaged by storms or strong current. The coral fragments can grow 10 to 12 cm a year: after three years in the nursery they can be transplanted to form parts of new coral reefs.
“We are looking for spots with not too much current and clean water. Preferably also shallow water, which makes it possible for divers and snorkelers to come and check on the progress, however, if we cannot find a suitable place, we have to go deeper,” said Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
Coral Scientist Dr. Erik Meesters from IMARES said, “Raising and outplanting new coral colonies will provide new living space for fi sh and invertebrates and provide sustainable income for the local community. We can contribute to and learn from coral restoration projects in other countries.”
The project can be followed via Nature Foundation’s Facebook page.
The Daily Herald.