Habitats | Ecosystem Disturbance

March 27, 2024

A former fisherman plants coral, Indonesia, Coral Guardian (photo by Martin Colognoli, courtesy of Ocean Image Bank, via the oceanagency.org).

Reef stars’ restored Indonesia’s blast-damaged corals in just 4 years – Grist Magazine

A community-based approach to restoration combined with an ingenious device can bring back reefs traumatized by dynamite fishing.

Out among a scattering of islands spilled like beads into the Indonesian shallows, an extended experiment in coral restoration has revealed something marvelous: With a tender touch and a community to care for it, a reef can fully recover from the devastation of blast fishing in just four years.

The Spermonde Archipelago, which lies a dozen miles off the coast of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, was long home to some of the most dynamic reefs in the world, where schools of fish rainbowed over coral blanketing the seafloor. But dynamite fishing turned swaths of those wonders into wastes. That was until 2018, when academics, government agencies, nonprofits, and local communities came together to restore them with a novel approach developed over years of testing and refinement. Now, a team of marine biologists and reef ecologists has released the first results in a suite of studies investigating the program’s achievements. The study, published earlier this month in Current Biology, shows that the method can help reefs rebuild in just a few years.

“We do always refer to corals, in particular in reefs, as these slow-growing ecosystems that take a long time to recover, which they are,” said Rebecca Albright, a coral biologist at the California Academy of Sciences who was not involved in the study. “So showing that they can regain rapid growth within four years is very encouraging.”

Promoting this recovery in Sulawesi is particularly important, because the island sits at the center of the Indonesian archipelago and in one corner of the Coral Triangle. This region, and Indonesia in particular, is home to the largest concentration of reefs and coral habitat in the world. Yet many of these vibrant ecosystems were pulverized by decades of fishers dropping explosives into the water to concuss fish they could then scoop out of the sea. With loose rubble then left to tumble in the currents, corals had little hope of recovering on their own. Any coral spawns that might settle and grow were liable to be crushed by errant rocks.

To overcome this, the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Program — a nonprofit funded by the Mars corporation known for M&Ms, Twix, and Snickers — brought together restoration experts who developed what they call the reef star: a six-legged steel spider coated in sand, to which coral fragments harvested from nearby healthy reefs or found rolling with the tides are strapped. Restoration workers, often members of local communities, deploy them across dozens of sites. These webs provide the protection and stability the transplants need to grow, while also settling the debris created by blast fishing. Without such help, researchers believe that corals — those strange yet essential sea creatures — might never have returned to the damaged areas.

Within a year of placing the reef stars, the fragments grew into colonies. By year two, the branches of neighboring colonies knit into a marine embrace. By 2023, the former fragments had grown into orange bushels, broad yellow pads, and twisting pink tentacles that trains of fluorescent fish explore…


More on Habitat | Ecosystem Disturbance

Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) in Bonaire, Caribbean Neatherlands, taken on January 21, 2024 (by Tom Murray CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

Six Months After the Heat Spiked, Caribbean Corals Are Still Reeling – Hakai Magazine

For many Caribbean corals, last year’s heat proved too much to bear. The more time corals spend in hot water, the more likely they are to bleach, turning white as they expel the single-celled algae that live within their tissues. Without these symbiotic algae—and the energy they provide through photosynthesis—bleached corals starve. Survival becomes a struggle, and what had been a healthy thicket of colorful coral can turn into a tangle of skeletons…

Coral bleaching event 2023 in the Florida Keys (by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

Coral bleaching is now so extreme, scientists had to expand their scale for it – the Washington Post

For more than a decade, marine experts have relied on an alert scale from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to signal how much stress ocean heat is putting on corals and what risk there is for bleaching. The highest on the two-level system, Bleaching Alert Level 2, has for years represented coral catastrophe. That has sufficed — until last summer…

A cluster of Olympia oysters (by Matthew Gray, courtesy of Oregon State University CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

How to Love an Oyster – Hakai

Most people, even those who know a thing or two about oysters and may perhaps enjoy eating them, have no idea that the sweet and buttery bivalves they are slurping down in San Francisco or Vancouver are not the native species of the West Coast but Japanese imports…It is only on rare occasions at certain bougie establishments that you might encounter the much-smaller Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) on the menu, a Proustian remembrance with its miserly portion of meat and coppery taste…

Sanderling eating oysters, Tybee & Jekyll Islands, Georgia (by James Diedrik CC BY 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

How much carbon can oysters store? Scientists are trying to find out – Grist

Scientists all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are trying to bring oyster populations back, and not just because they’re a popular food. Oysters are also important for healthy coastal ecosystems. And researchers are now studying how creating new oyster reefs could help fight climate change by sequestering carbon…

Green Sea Turtle (by Laura Gooch CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

The World Is Running Out of Male Sea Turtles – Science Alert

Green sea turtles are already an endangered species, mainly due to humans hunting them, harvesting their eggs, degrading their habitats, or entangling them in garbage of some kind. But they also face another, more insidious threat from people: the loss of male hatchlings from the species…that this is partly caused by rising temperatures due to climate change – but a new study has now unveiled another human-caused problem driving this trend. Certain pollutants may promote feminization in sea turtles, explains lead author Arthur Barraza, a toxicologist with the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University…

no more posts . . .