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In April 2006 the Phuket Marine Biology Center, approached The Adventure Club to consider ideas fro installing an floating coral nursery at the Phi Phi Islands.
The concept of the nursery originated from researchers with the National Institute of Oceanography in Israel who participated in a cooperative research project with the PMBC and researchers from 4 other countries; UK, Italy, Singapore and Philippines, under the programme “Developing ubiquitous practices for restoration of Indo-Pacific reefs”, aka REEFRES, supported by the European Commission.
The nursery method is a way of cultivating coral fragments using traditional forestation techniques. By removing limited amounts of coral fragments this reduces the impact to the donor colonies and aids reproduction of new coral colonies.
Since the nursery is suspended above the substrate, it allows the coral fragments to grow with reduced threats from corallivores, such as parrotfish, crown of thorns and drupella snails.
The coral nursery and artificial reef programs have been initiated as a tool to highlight the problems facing coral reefs around the world and to educate people that are dependent on the sea to reconsider the methods they use that could reduce the impact on our oceans.
Growing corals is both time consuming, slow and very expensive considering the amount of corals that can be produced in one year. Therefore focus has been directed towards promoting sustainable tourism and highlighting the need for greater protection of coral reefs and marine resources rather than attempting to replant thousands of hectares of coral reef.
This promotes the concept that if greater awareness can help reduce the anthropogenic impacts on reefs on a wider scale, then this will help to improve the reef’s natural ability for reproduction and self-restoration.
Corals that reproduce asexually are a suitable choice for the nursery and the abundance of these types of coral within the nursery area is one of the reasons we chose this location.
Acropora, Montipora, and Pocillopora sp. grow quickly and and survive well in the environment chosen for the nursery. In addition these species of corals are often found already broken through anchor damage or other physical impacts which enable fragment collection without impacting heavily on the mother colonies.
However we have found when taking cuttings from large colonies that there has been no adverse effects on the mother colony and the cut area starts to grow fresh tissue within a few weeks only.
A yearly workshop on coral rehabilitation has been conducted since 2007. Each year students of the the University of Missouri arrive in January to complete the work started in the previous year by planting corals that have been grown in the nursery and then restock the nursery for another year of ‘nursing’.
The workshop focus on detailing the roles that different marine organism play in the overall health of the reef and the impacts that can affect them. Students learn to identify fish, invertebrate and coral species over a week of lectures and dives. The whole process is working up to their work to restock the coral nursery.
In the final days, students learn how to handle corals and the techniques used to transfer the corals to the coral nursery while maintaining a the criteria to ensure a high level of survival. The emphasis on this process is on quality control and not in quantity production. In average the nursery is restocker with 1000-1500 coral fragments each year.
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