Counterpart International is working to restore corals reefs in locations across the world, including Jamaica and the Dominican Republic:
Coral reefs are among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing habitat and nurseries for marine life, protecting coasts and shorelines from storms and contributing to local economies through tourism and fishing. Furthermore, reef systems provide protein to tens of millions of people, create jobs and contribute billions of dollars to the economy worldwide.
Coral at risk
However coral reefs globally are at risk. In the Caribbean, Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn (A. palmata) corals are in decline. Only thirty years ago these corals comprised 70 percent of reefs in the region. Since 1980, Caribbean reef populations have collapsed mainly due to overfishing, agricultural run-off and bleaching from increasing ocean temperatures.
In May 2006, Staghorn and Elkhorn corals were added to the U.S. endangered species list— the first such listing for reef building corals. Both species have declined 80 to 99 percent from historical populations, negatively impacting the structure and function of reefs – making it so they are unable to recover without intervention.
Counterpart International is a leader in the emerging field of coral restoration – our Coral Gardens program is developing low-tech, cost-effective systems for growing and transplanting corals to restore degraded reef ecosystems and community-based fisheries. Counterpart is working to save these critical species from extinction by developing healthy, localized reef patches with capacity for successful regeneration.
We have implemented Coral Garden Reef Restoration activities over the past ten years, resulting in 36 projects in eight countries spanning the Pacific and the Caribbean. This work has generated impressive results—at minimum, Counterpart has produced 5–12 times the original amount of coral at each site and has demonstrated a five-fold increase in fish and shellfish abundance in targeted sites, with corresponding nutritional and economic benefits for local communities.
Counterpart’s Coral Gardens approach combines strategies for sustainable management of marine ecosystems with restoration of coral reefs and associated habitats where appropriate:
• Nurseries are established by trimming coral fragments from existing wild populations then securing them on underwater structures.
• The original coral is grown over a number of years and trimmed or propagated every 9 – 12 months, increasing the original fragments by ten times.
• Second generation corals are planted back onto the reef and monitored for overall health and reproduction potential.
Meanwhile, the nursery itself can reach maturity and spawn, releasing millions of coral larvae into the ocean, further contributing to the natural restoration process.
Coral Gardens Jamaica built a national network of MPA practitioners trained and involved in coral restoration activities and established a comprehensive and efficient system of monitoring and evaluation of marine ecosystems. The various ecological and socio-economic marine based indicators better informed the network of practitioners and catalysed biodiversity and fisheries improvements in Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios Marine Parks. The conservation staff was successful in re-establishing healthy, sexually reproductive populations of Acropora cervicornis, helping to rescue this keystone species from a near future state of local extinction and reinforced the national MPA conservation model.
Find out more about Counterpart’s coral reef restoration work in the Caribbean by following the links above.
Previously on Green Antilles: Video: Counterpart International in the Dominican Republic – a focus on coastal communities.
[Photo: via counterpart.org]