This is how conservationists are saving the world’s coral reefs

It’s no news that coral reefs around the world are suffering greatly from the effects of climate change. Sea level rise, intensifying tropical storms, warming waters, and ocean acidification – when combined, all of these impacts dramatically alter coral reef ecosystems, leading to devastating effects on marine food chains and the global economy.

Thankfully, there are people out there who are continuously working to finding ways to prevent the destruction of these fascinating ecosystems. Among the front-runners committed to this honorable task is the Coral Restoration Foundation, which is diving into these challenges head first, particularly in the Florida Keys.

The group has essentially built a massive nursery for coral, where they grow coral on over 400 metal “trees” suspended in the water. These metal trees help accelerate the growth rate of coral three to six times faster than they would grow in a natural reef, depending on the species.

To start the process, a parent colony is brought to land and fragmented using a diamond-blade circular drill bit. If you break a coral apart and attach its parts to a hard surface, it will keep on growing. Next, the team attaches these fragments to the underwater trees until the coral is mature enough to plant in reef sites.

While planting coral is not a new initiative, doing it on the large enough scale necessary to save coral reefs is unprecedented. Today, over 40,000 coral colonies have been planted across more than 20 restoration sites throughout the Florida Keys Reef Tract. The last few years have signified a time of massive growth for the Coral Restoration Foundation, shedding a ray of hope on the state of coral reefs.  With continued perseverance, this is only a beginning.

 

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