With almost 14% of the world's coral reefs wiped out, restoring them is of paramount importance. These delicate living colonies are crucial for the marine ecosystem. Even a slight change in the environment can endanger their existence. The Daydream Island coral reef propagation program came into existence because of Cyclone Debbie that denuded corals on the Lover's Cove in 2017. Daydream Island started this project with the goal of experimenting with various restoration approaches to figure out the most effective technique for the region.
What is coral reef propagation, and why is it necessary?
It is the restoration of destroyed reefs and aims at preserving biodiversity by yielding a faster growth rate and reduced mortality. They are responsible for the food web and prevent erosion. It employs a variety of techniques and entails long-term monitoring and upkeep.
How does it work?
Coral propagation employs a variety of techniques. It entails long-term monitoring and upkeep. The first process includes removing a small sectioned tissue and skeleton from healthy indigenous coral grown in ex-situ nurseries. The collected corals from the island's eastern side are planted for 3-6 months in custom-built raceways during the initial growing period. Raceways are the artificial channels where a continuous water flow is maintained. Putting corals in the raceways ensures that the corals are grown in identical conditions like the Great Barrier Reef. Corals can grow at a rate of 4 inches per year. After acquiring the necessary growth and enabling the fragments to attach to the natural substrate, they are ready to be outplanted.
After being organically connected to the cement discs, they are outplanted onto a bare reef structure using several attachment strategies while considering the on-site conditions. This attachment speeds up the process for a natural reef. A new inventive method encompasses using the coral skeletons swept ashore after Cyclone Debbie that does not involve any artificial products.
What are the results?
To date, the outcomes have been impressive, with a survival rate of over 95 percent. We achieved favourable results with low mortality, with 98 percent of the corals surviving, attributable to the optimal water temperature and UV exposure in the first three months.
Because of the strategies employed to create reduced risk with colonies close to the seabed, the Spider frames and Coral skeletons had the highest survival rate in the early phases documenting 97% survival. Even if the results are promising, a deeper examination will test them further over the warmer months.
According to 2020 frags survivorship, we witnessed a total of 96.5 percent of survivorship, in which outplanted discs stood at 94 percent, outplanted Bommies at 98 percent, and Raceways (New Bommies and disc) at 98 percent.
As of January 2022, the Living Reef team at Daydream Island Resort and Living Reef have outplanted 1,500 coral colonies at Lover's Cove and aim at out planting a substantial amount of healthy colonies!
These activities are all currently permitted under Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Permit G19/42621.1