Citizen Science and Marine Conservation

Coral reefs are the most diverse and among the most productive ecosystems on earth.  Till few years back, no one worried about the long-term perseverance of the reefs. Humans just took the reefs for granted!

Millions of people rely on the harvest derived from coral reefs as their major source of food and income. In addition, the revenue coral reefs earn from tourism, recreation, education, and research is of major importance to their economies. Morally wise, current research in such areas as natural products chemistry proves that coral reefs support a broad number of medical compounds of major benefit in the treatment of critical human diseases. (Cancers, Alzheimer and many more.)

Despite of this great importance, reefs continue to be impacted by human activities that threaten their existence: climate change, land- and marine-based pollution, habitat destruction, diving and touristic activities and over-fishing.

Many of these impacts have immediate effects, such as fragmentation of coral to the point of total mortality. Other effects, such as chemical pollutants, waste or excess nutrients have impacts that are more sustainable and difficult to quantify.

The philosophy of “protection is always preferred over restoration” is a luxury that no longer applies to most regions.

NOW Restoration is necessary to preserve the biodiversity and functionality of reefs and ensure the sustainability of their resources.

As a start, Corals grow by sexual and asexual methods. Most of the restoration techniques depend on Asexual method, Fragmentation. The sexual techniques would need more scientific and lab resources exceeds the scope of our awareness article.

Fragmented pieces found at the bottom of the ocean would represent a good starting point.

Unless the broken piece of coral has died, there is a big chance to survive if it gets fixed back properly. The process of fixing the piece back to the nearest colony is simple, in terms of technique and tools.

The true challenge is to develop the strategy and action plans to be implemented for restoration. Which areas, scope of work: restoration or rehabilitation of the site, how many sites and finally the available resources , time plan and Budget.

It all starts with education!

Developing a think tank of marine biologists with enough manpower (i.e. divers) who are capable and knowledgeable about coral restoration. It is the need for having a pool of talented / skilled restoration divers.

The recreational divers arise as good candidates who would participate in the restoration efforts.

They would represent an active and efficient citizen science helping the scientists and marine biologists at the efforts.

The first step would be to fill the knowledge gap by bringing together what is currently known about coral growing and sites restoration and what options are available for training the divers and eventually start using them at restorations projects.

Corals’ restoration starts by reef inspection and evaluation. The image would be one of three scenarios:

  • Totally dead and rubble condition
  • Partially impacted and still vivant
  • Excellent condition, Zero to minimum impact

For each of the above scenarios, a different action plan would be developed.
For all the above scenarios. it all starts with water quality and site condition. The water quality analysis would indicate any chemicals’ impact (Oil and chemicals, sewage, excess nutrients etc..)

A physical evaluation for the site condition would show human or physical impacts that affect the corals as well.

After verifying from the above 2 points (water quality and external impacts), the best course of action would be to stop the external impact(s).

It is crucial to stop the negative impact before proceeding with any restoration plan.

The next step would be to work on each scenario and develop an action plan.

So what’s next? Keep following us for next article for action plan for each scenario.

Participate as Citizen Scientist to fight global warming.

Ahmed Nabil

A Proud Egyptian, with circa 20 years driving experience. PADI Master Scuba diving Trainer, passionate towards the ocean and marine environment. Environmental and Engineering consultant by profession, backed up with more than 20 years experience in the metal forming industry. Joined the Global efforts for fighting Climate Change, focusing on marine conservation and rehabilitation dimensions. Raising Awareness, especially for the youth, paving the roads for them toward greener future and Blue jobs.
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