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By Coral Restoration Foundation
With today's resources and knowledge, it is possible to bring coral reefs back to a healthy state. But we need to do it soon, and we need to do it fast. And what better time to do it than in 2018, the International Year of the Reef?
Life on Earth needs coral reefs. They are the "rainforests of the sea," supporting 25 percent of all marine life, protecting our shores, feeding our people, providing pharmaceutical solutions and breathtaking natural playgrounds that underpin economies around the world. Yet coral reefs are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet.
On Our Doorstep
Running from north of Miami down to Key West in the south, right on Florida's doorstep, lies the Florida Reef Tract—the third largest barrier reef in the world and the only barrier coral reef in the continental U.S.
The Florida Reef Tract was once dominated by two species of reef-building coral, staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata). It now hosts just three percent of the once-dominant staghorn and Elkhorn cover that it had in the 1970s. These became some of the first corals to be included on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, and are both now listed as "Critically Endangered"—one step away from a listing of "Extinct in the Wild."
Alice Grainger / Coral Restoration Foundation
The Invisible Emergency
At the current rate we are losing them, all shallow water coral reef systems could be functionally extinct in the next 80 years. As the Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, so powerfully revealed, the crisis gripping our oceans is dramatic, but also, unfortunately, invisible to most people.
Films like Chasing Coral are vital as they are helping to bring the death of our coral reefs to light, generating a groundswell of awareness and action, at a time when it is now essential that we act together to save and restore these precious ecosystems. Thankfully, we have the data and technology to enable us to do just that.
One organization is offering a practical way of bringing coral reefs back from the brink of extinction—the Coral Restoration Foundation, based in Key Largo, Florida.
Born in the USA
Over the last decade, the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) has developed a science-driven method for "farming" and "outplanting" colonies of staghorn and elkhorn, in an effort to bring these species back from the brink of extinction.
By hanging finger-sized fragments of these corals to grow on Coral Trees™, suspended in the nutrient-and-sunlight-rich water column, Coral Restoration Foundation can produce colonies that are large enough to be planted onto the reef in just six to nine months. With around 500 Coral Trees™ across seven large nurseries, to date, CRF has now planted more than 66,000 corals back onto the Florida Reef Tract.
CRF's outplanted coral thickets are now spawning naturally—evidence that the method is working, and that with a little help, these damaged reefs could eventually return themselves to a healthy state.
Thanks to collaborations with organizations such as NOAA, The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Universities, Georgia Aquarium, Force Blue, Florida Aquarium, dive operators, private businesses and the local community, Coral Restoration Foundation has recently been able to shift its mission into higher gear: Their focus in the U.S. is now on fully restoring eight reef sites along the Florida Reef Tract.
A healthy elkhorn thicket.Alice Grainger / Coral Restoration Foundation
Everyone is Part of the Solution
It is a massive undertaking, but with the methodologies at our disposal, and the right support, it is a very achievable goal. But to be truly successful, the most important partner CRF needs, is you.
The Coral Restoration Foundation has practical ways that you can get involved, both on and off the water: Recreational dive programs let you help in the Coral Tree Nurseries, outplant corals and monitor reefs that are in the process of being restored. You can also take part in CRF's events, volunteer programs, educational activities and donations drives.
You may feel powerless in the face of the threats to our oceans, but you are not alone; there are hundreds of thousands of oceans advocates around the globe, working right now on protecting the planet's marine ecosystems. And, in the same way that CRF's tiny coral fragments have the potential to grow into large, healthy, reproductive coral thickets, every tiny, individual, positive action adds up to make an enormous difference.
Coral Restoration Foundation Nursery Coral Tree.Alice Grainger / Coral Restoration Foundation
Six Ways You Can Support the Future of Coral Reefs Everyday
- Support ocean conservation organizations
- Choose only sustainable seafood
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Use reef-safe sunscreen
- Reduce your plastic consumption
- Share the message
You can learn more about what can be done to save our coral reef ecosystems, and join the mission in a meaningful way on April 28, at Raise the Reef 2018, Coral Restoration Foundation's 6th Annual Gala. Click here for more details and to buy tickets. For more information on the Coral Restoration Foundation, visit the website.
Coral Restoration Foundation Profile
Coral Restoration Foundation is a non-profit marine conservation organization dedicated to restoring reefs to a healthy state, in Florida and globally. Through large-scale cultivation, outplanting and monitoring of genetically diverse corals, CRF works to support the reefs' natural recovery processes. CRF engages and empowers others in the mission with dive programs, educational activities, scientific collaborations and outreach.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.