Restoration and the Future
March 16, 2023
Developing technologies have found a way to restore some dead corals. Deemed “coral restoration” by scientists, the technique involves planting small corals raised in nurseries on dead reefs in hopes that it will revive the reef.
“Coral restoration means bringing back reefs that are dead, but it depends on how severely degraded the reef is,” Hixon said.
KAUST’s Reefscape Restoration Initiative Project is one of the world’s greatest coral restoration efforts. It revolves around a 100-hectare reef area around Shushah Island in the Red Sea.
“It’s an interesting site. It’s a mix of really amazing high-quality reef and really heavily degraded reef, and that is a good environment to do one of these test-type projects. Generally, the best thing to do is work from areas that have moderate health and then begin to restore the degraded areas around them,” Moore said.
The KAUST Restoration Initiative began in 2021. Two years later, the organization started its initial restoration phases.
“Based on what we’ve seen of the site and what we understand of techniques elsewhere around the world, we’re pretty cautiously optimistic that we will be able to begin to restore some of the site,” Moore said.
However, with approximately half a trillion corals in the Pacific Ocean and more located in other regions, it’s unrealistic to expect coral restoration to be a cure-all solution to bleaching.
“The idea of restoration and coral reefs is not to restore every single reef that is out there. It’s to provide reefs with enough time to adapt to these warmer conditions and hopefully give the reefs a chance to recover on their own,” Moore said.
It is important to know that coral restoration will only be a permanent solution once we solve climate change.
We need to focus on trying to prevent further increases in the number of bleaching events and coral mortality events by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and then we can focus on restoring what we have.
— Alexis Sturm
“If there’s continued bleaching, then the restoration is not going to do much. We need to focus on trying to prevent further increases in the number of bleaching events and coral mortality events by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and then we can focus on restoring what we have. It’s a two-pronged approach,” Sturm said.
With the discovery of the adaptive properties of coral and coral restoration underway in various parts of the globe, the future of our world’s reefs is looking brighter.
“Corals are like the rainforests of the sea. They have a certain value intrinsic to them being part of this planet. They are worth saving,” Sturm said.