On a recent trip to the Whitsundays, we were joined by a group of volunteers to help re-propagate coral colonies to continue the process of assisting the recovery of reefs at Blue Pearl and Manta Ray Bay. During the trip we ‘planted 440 coral colonies on four of our coral nursery frames at the two locations. A brief check up two weeks after propagation showed high survival of 96% across all locations and methods.
When establishing coral nurseries we use two methods, ropes and coral discs or ‘cookies’ on trays. Both methods are effective and allow for the establishment of different sizes and shapes of corals. The trays were showing a higher survival of 97% while the ropes had a survival rate of 93%. It is early after relocation of corals, sourced from the nearby Stonehaven Bay, but the high survival rate demonstrates that the corals have acclimated well to their new home.
The coral nursery methods we use are designed to be implemented in small budgets with minimal technical knowledge. This way more people are able to participate in the process and have opportunities have hands-on experiences to make a difference to assist the recovery of reefs on local scales. These opportunities create important social connections between people and reefs which inspire people to make changes in their everyday lives to continue to implement changes to mitigate the effects of climate change through small actions.
High survival rates on nurseries is one thing, and while positive the true success of restoration programs like these come for the successful outplanting of propagated corals onto the surrounding degraded reefscapes. This is where the true restoration needs to happen and one that is often faced with significant hurdles and challenges. Our recovery work in the Whitsundays has been marred by heavy sediment loads, algal overgrowth and substantial predation limiting the prima facie success of the program thus far. But ecological outcomes take many years to realise and while challenges continue, we are hopeful that the fruits of many years hard work will be realised over the coming 12-24 months as outplanted colonies establish and become integral elements of the reef community at the research sites.