– photo by Harrison Kennedy for Coral Gardeners
Coral Gardeners aims to save the coral reefs through education and coral reef restoration. Volunteers at Coral Gardeners transplant coral cuttings onto degraded areas of reef. When these coral fragments grow, they help to recreate reef habitats. This allows other life to return and strengthens the reef against future damage.
“We are beyond grateful to have a community that supports our work. Here is our restoration team working on an entire nursery table that has been adopted by one of our supporters. It takes approximately three days to collect, clean and place up to 100 corals to set a table. Once they are judged healthy enough, those corals are replanted onto the reefs bringing a lot of new life.”
Coral reefs are the rainforests of the oceans, providing a home for a dazzling array of life. Reef-building corals are the trees that form the foundation of the ecosystem. These corals are usually colonies of many small animals called polyps, which grow a hard calcium carbonate skeleton and can live for hundreds of years. Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1% of the earth’s surface, yet they provide habitat for approximately 25% of known marine species.
Coral reefs are built by and made up of thousands of tiny soft-bodied organisms called polyps, which are related to anemones and jellyfish. At the base of the polyp is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs. Reefs begin when a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones.
Most coral polyps contain photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. Both of these organisms live in symbiosis – the coral gives protection and nutrients to the algae, and the algae gives food and oxygen in exchange.
Coral reefs are the oceans’ lungs; they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and transform it into the oxygen we breathe. By doing this they regulate air and water temperature for us all. Coral reefs also protect coastlines against big waves, storms and erosion. They are capable of absorbing 97% of the energy of the waves and can reduce wave height by 84%.
Coral reefs provide valuable services and support millions of livelihoods. The services that coral reefs provide have been valued at around $10 trillion per year – this includes food resources, tourism, coastal protection, climate change mitigation and other gifts to humanity.
In French Polynesia, where tourism is the primary source of income, economic, cultural and social activities often rely on a healthy reef.
Almost half of the world’s reefs have been lost in the last 40 years. The main cause is a warming climate, in addition to over-fishing and human pollution. Based on current trends, all coral reefs may be dead by the year 2050. This will directly affect hundreds of millions of people and will be an enormous loss for the planet.
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