This Underwater Sculpture Is Helping to Restore Coral Reefs in Thailand
By David Elliott
Dive beneath the brilliant blue waters surrounding Thailand's Koh Tao island and you might come face to face with a giant sculpture of the sea goddess Mazu.
But a closer look reveals an even bigger surprise – Mazu is alive.
That's because, as the 1,800kg (almost 40,000-pound) centerpiece of a large artificial coral reef, she is teeming with sea life.
Built in 2018 by non-profit organization Global Coralition with the help of conservation group Eco Koh Tao, the sculpture and the 36 smaller pyramid structures that surround it hold 5,000 coral transplants. It attracts hundreds of divers a week and helps raise funds for local restoration groups, and is maintained by these divers and the local community.
Global Coralition now plans to return to the island to work with local conservation groups and scientists from Thailand's marine resources department to build the island's first land-based coral farm. The group is currently raising funds.
Small Pieces, Big Impact
Angeline Chen, Executive Director of Global Coralition – who spoke recently at the World Economic Forum's Virtual Ocean Dialogues event – is effusive about the benefits of growing coral on land and the role it could play in rebuilding damaged ocean habitats.
Coral can be grown up to 50 times faster this way, she says, using a technique called microfragmentation. This involves dividing a piece of coral into much smaller fragments, which stimulates the tissue to grow. The pieces are grown a short distance apart and – because corals are clonal animals – they fuse together when their edges meet, forming a single mass.
Combined with other scientific methods, like larval propagation and assisted evolution to increase the resilience and reproductive rate of corals, Chen believes the impact of such projects, practiced all around the world, could be massive.
"With these farms, we could be growing a diverse array of resilient coral on a huge scale," she says.
Many organizations are practicing these methods, including Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, US, and the government of Hawaii, which is out-planting 1 meter by 1 meter (3.2 foot) corals grown in one year – the largest to be grown in a land-based nursery.
In the world of nursery raised corals, a one-meter coral is considered big. Yesterday, a team of biologists and te… https://t.co/wNWMyaARVf— DLNR (@DLNR)1590713599.0
Driving the work of Global Coralition and organizations like it is a simple fact: coral is vital to the planet.
Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, and they support nearly 1 million species of fish, invertebrates and algae. They're crucial to humans, too. They protect our coasts from storms and floods, and provide work, medicine and food to more than 1 billion people. In fact, coral reef ecosystems give society resources and services worth $375 billion per year, according to the United Nations.
But coral faces myriad threats, including overfishing, pollution and climate change. Almost half of reef-building coral species are under threat, according to UN figures. And scientists predict we'll lose up to 90% of all reefs in the next 20 years if something isn't done soon.
For Chen and the Global Coralition, the answer lies in engaging and empowering local communities with the knowledge, tools and resources to reduce the local impacts of reef degradation while increasing key habitats and species.
The organization uses art, like the sculpture of Mazu, to bring people together around cultural themes that are meaningful to their communities.
It then works with parties including local officials, marine ecologists, fisherman, students and dive centers to foster the unique skills to rehabilitate their local ecology. This work in turn improves quality of life, water quality, food security, income and employment opportunities and education in the region.
The world's reef-building corals. Statista
Global Coralition is currently building a marine farm in a fishing village in the Dominican Republic. It consists of an expansive underwater sculpture garden inspired by Taino wisdom, a land-based coral farm, mangrove and oyster restoration and a community education center.
As part of this project, Chen says, it used the World Economic Forum's UpLink platform to connect the community with a recycling facility that pays locals to collect trash, which can be turned into material to be sold back into the economy.
The organization wants to create 200 of these marine hubs across the globe in collaboration with local communities and governments, fishing villages, dive communities, restoration groups, hotels and local officials.
"Based on recovery rates, scientists predict we can rebuild marine life by 2050 if we can mitigate climate change, reduce local pressures and increase the abundance of our keystone habitats and species," Chen says.
"If these methods were applied all over the world, we could scale our collective rates of restoration."
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>