With the decline of coral reef habitats around the world, the importance of coral farming is becoming clear. APM1 This research is focused in how coral reef are being affected by global warming and its repercussions, and this brand-new restoration method that is coral farming. The objective of this research is to educate the public about the importance of conserving coral reefs. APM2
Corals is the name of a huge colony of polyps. Polyps are a solitary colonial sedentary type of animal characterized by a fixed base, columnar body, and free end with mouth and tentacles. In some cases, single polyps are not easily distinguished with our eyes because they are part of this huge colony of thousands living very close together better known as corals. Corals are animals; they make a calcium carbonate skeleton that looks similar to a rock and have a symbiotic relationship with plant-like cells called zooxanthellae According to Campbell (2014), symbiosis is an ecological relationship between organisms of two different species that live together in a direct and intimate contact. Zooxanthellae are cells that use sunlight to produce food through photosynthesis and create a byproduct that the coral use as foodAPM3 . In balance of this symbiotic relationship, the coral returns with some nutrients and shelter. But this is not the only way that corals have to live off; in the nights they also stretch out their tentacles and catch microscopic organisms that are in the water and digest them in their stomachs.
Coral reefs are found throughout the oceans, from deep, cold waters to shallow, tropical waters. Most of the corals are found in warm shallow waters that receive plenty of light. Like Lalli and Parsons as cited in NOAA web page said, “The corals requirement for high light also explains why most reef-building species are restricted to the euphotic zone, the region in the ocean where light penetrates to a depth of approximately 70 meters.” Reef-building corals do not tolerate temperatures below 18° Celsius; many grow optimally between 23°C and 29°C, but very few can tolerate as high as 40°C. Also, corals need very salty waters, which must also be clear so that a maximum of light can penetrate. Corals are very strong animals to some eventually adaptations but not to extremely new life forms or life conditions; therefore, corals populations are decreasing in a very worrying manner.
Global warming has been affecting all ecosystems, and corals are not the exception. The huge impact that the contamination, overfishing, climatic changes, natural disasters and many others influence to the destruction and death of corals. Corals play a very important role in the ocean, there are the shelter of millions of marine’s species. Also, there’s many compounds used in human medicine that are found only on reefs. Coral bleaching is one of the most dangerous situation that is affecting directly. When water is too warm, corals will expel the zooxanthellae cell causing them to turn completely white. When this happens, there are not completely dead, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality. In 2005 the Caribbean in one-year lost half of the reef due to bleaching event (NOAA,2017).
By all these worrying events some scientifics started a new restoration method for coral growing and rehabilitation. The restoration, cultivation and propagation of corals have emerged as an alternative to balance this quick change on the marine ecosystem. The methodology of cultivation where coral colonies or fragments are grown underwater or in a laboratory and then transplanted to degraded reefs has been applied successfully at different scales. Coral farming also known as coral aquaculture is the process of cultivating small corals for propagation in nurseries then attach them with a non-chemical epoxy to the reef. Coral aquaculture has the ability to improve coral cover, biodiversity and structural heterogeneity of degraded reef. The restoration process not only impacts the reef, also influence all the habitat of organisms associated with them like the fishes.
There are three phases on coral farming. First of all, the researchers have to see the reproduction and how will be more effective. Reefs reproduce by spawning -when the eggs and sperm are released or deposited into water waiting to become fertilized by another gamete- or asexually by budding polyps. Second phase is when corals are transported from their indoor tanks into floating nurseries in the sea. This is a very delicate process because the farmer has to study the conditions and see all the aspects that can affect or improve the growth of the coral. The nurseries are ideally located at a mid-depth. While they will float in the water column, the coral will be attached on the structure at a point that is submerged, they are fixed to a usually made from string, wire, mesh or monofilament line. The polyps colonies stay in this stage about 8 to 24 months. When corals are big and strong enough they will pass to the phase three that is transplantation, the transplantation will be to reef that have been affected to increase the population and try to restore the habitat.
In Puerto Rico this type of method is being implemented in a very tiny scale. One of this projects have been done in “La Parguera”, whit a coral reef of A.palmata that was threaten of extinction. This was made by the NOAA Restoration Center members and a group of volunteer diver of Gulf of Mexico Foundation. To the date there are 300 fragments of A.palmata with a survival of 87 percent my translation (SIAS, n.d).This eventually will be transferred to the stage three that is transplantation with a hope that more of the 50 percent of the specie adapt and survive.
This type of methods and projects are trying to restore the coral reef ecosystem from the worrying degradation. But researchers and foundations need the help of the people to continue the conservation of species. People have to take conscience and help conserving water, disposing trash properly, help reduce pollution, support reef-friendly business and the most important spread the word. Let’s share this excitement and encourage others to get involved. Corals are not only a beautiful marine ecosystem, they are animals that feel the consequences of our acts.