A diver cements a nursery-grown coral using a pastry bag. (N. Thake, Nature Seychelles)
In a move to improve the outcome of coral restoration undertaken by hotels in Seychelles, Nature Seychelles, a non-profit environmental organisation, has developed a new low-tech method to monitor the survival and growth of coral transplants.
Nature Seychelles undertook the first restoration of a patch of reef with the new method at Petite Anse Kerlan, located close to the Constance Lemuria 5-star resort on Praslin, the second largest island of Seychelles.
Called “boutique restoration”, the Nature Seychelles team tailored this method specifically for hotels, as it meets the needs of tourism establishments while complying with the science-based principles of ecological restoration.
In a publication presenting the methodology and the first outcome, the lead author Sarah Frias-Torres said there is an increase in the number of corporate environmental responsibility activities at hotel resorts geared towards coral reef restoration. This is an endeavour that offers a significant opportunity for the advancement of coral reef conservation and a new socioeconomic sector.
“However, the scarcity of user-friendly monitoring methods for hotel staff, robust enough to detect changes over time, hinders the ability to quantify the success or failure of the restoration activity,” said the press release.
To overcome this problem, Nature Seychelles ensured that the method developed is easy for staff to implement without scientific training, using the standard resources available at a hotel resort.
Transplanted corals are photographed with a reflective square tile in the field of view, after which an underwater map of the site is developed, allowing navigation and re-sighting of the monitored colonies.
|The method was tested on a boutique coral reef restoration site in Seychelles. (N. Thake, Nature Seychelles) Photo License: Photo License: CC-BY|
To monitor survival and growth over time, divers use the map and the reflective tiles to find the corals. Once identified, the status of the coral status is recorded and a photograph is taken.
The size of the coral in the digital images is measured using open-source software.
The project at Petite Anse Kerlan, which was evaluated over a year, saw the transplanting of 2,015 corals. The branching, encrusting, and massive corals used at the site, located within 50 metres off the Petite Anse Kerlan beach, were grown by the Nature Seychelles Reef Rescuers team in midwater ocean nurseries within the Cousin Island Special Reserve. These corals were survivors of the 1998 mass coral bleaching event that happened in Seychelles.
“The monitoring method was robust enough to detect the expected survival of coral transplants, with encrusting and massive corals outperforming branching corals. Survival of encrusting and massive corals was higher than that of branching corals,” according to the study.
The team recorded an increase in the colony size by 10.1 square centimetres and noticed that branching coral survivors grew faster than massive or encrusting corals.
The project was funded through grants by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Environmental Fund (GEF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and Seychelles’ Mainstreaming Biodiversity Project to Nature Seychelles.
The chief executive of Nature Seychelles, Nirmal Shah, said that the organisation has a long history of collaborating with the private sector for ecosystems and species restoration.
“We have helped island management and owners on Cousine, Fregate, D’Arros, and Denis islands, among others, to restore their islands. Importantly all these projects have been underpinned by sound science, the methods made available as manuals and toolkits, and the results published in peer-reviewed journals,” said Shah.