We have officially met our halfway goal towards planting 15,000 corals onto Mo'orea's reef by 2022. Our restoration crew has been planting almost 8,000 corals from our gene bank nursery in Tiaia over the last few months, creating our largest transplant site yet, spreading across 5,000 square meters - almost one football field of restored reef!
GROWING, MULTIPLYING, PLANTING, REPEAT.
This achievement was a long time coming, since Tiaia was the first gene bank nursery we created back in December 2020. In order to make this happen, the team scouted the lagoon for the most resistant corals and collected fragments of different colonies and species to seed the nursery with biodiversity.
For over a year, the team put in the work to monitor and nurture over 4,000 corals to maturity. The corals grew so much that we were able to collect on average between 2 and 3 fragments per coral. In some cases, the team was even able to fragment up to 10 pieces from the largest corals while for the smaller species, such as Montipora and Porites, they planted them as a whole onto the reef.
The team already refilled the nursery with new corals for the ones that were taken entirely, and the rest of the partial fragments will keep on growing in the nursery to be ready for future transplants. This is the beauty of a gene bank - it will keep on giving!
CHOOSING THE RIGHT REEF TO RESTORE
Before planting the corals, the crew first needed to select and study reef areas with optimal conditions to be restored near the nursery, so the overall environment will be similar, and will create less stress for the corals to adapt.
They assessed the initial reef state by monitoring different aspects along transect lines, such as the presence of corals, algae, fishes, and invertebrates that they will repeat over time to track the impact of our transplantation efforts. Then, when the time came, they cleaned the surface to remove excess algae before they secured the 7,940 corals onto the reef with little dots of marine cement via pastry piping bags.
RECREATING AN ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM
The corals in Tiaia are thriving thus far post-transplant, and we will keep monitoring their evolution. The goal is that they spread onto the reef, eventually, spawn and attract more fish and other reef-dwelling creatures to settle in and bring life back to our ocean!
The team mapped the site with every coral they planted and have randomly tagged a sample of 800 corals to monitor closely for health and growth. The site will also be monitored every year for the abundance of fish and invertebrate biodiversity, and the overall coral coverage will be calculated with the photogrammetry technique that models the reef in 3D.
We are amped up by these results and are now getting ready to transplant our two other gene bank nurseries in Cook’s Bay and Piha’ena. We are on track to reach our yearly goal of planting 15,000 corals by 2022 and our long-term goal to plant 1 MILLION corals by 2025 with the techniques used and tested first in Mo’orea. You can take direct action to help us plant more corals by adopting one on our website. Let’s do this together.
Maūruuru roa for your support,
Coral Gardeners Team