Martinique works on coral restoration

elkhorncoral-500

C. Everard (France-Antilles) writes about work being done by DEAL Martinique (Direction de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement, et du Logement) and other entities to help save coral reefs in Martinique. He briefly describes the process of implanting cuttings of two species of endangered coral, taken from La Caravelle region and implanted along Le Diamant. He asks 7 questions about the project:

Which are the two species of affected corals? There are two types of coral of the genus Acropora: cervicornis (staghorn coral) and palmata (elkhorn coral). These are fast growing species, present from Florida to Venezuela. They play a crucial role in building the reefs of the Caribbean, they fulfill a role of a nursery for juvenile fish, and they strongly protect coastlines from, for example, cyclonic swells. The largest colonies of staghorns can reach a span of two meters.

Why were they chosen? Besides the qualities listed above, these Acropora are “critically endangered” species, according to the Union for the Conservation of Nature [l’Union pour la conservation de la nature (UICN)]. The collapse of the population has been around 90% to 98% since the early 80s, mostly because of illness, but also because of accidental breakages, cyclones, or episodes of warming of surface water. In Martinique, the staghorn coral was thought to have disappeared, but around a hundred colonies were recently discovered off La Caravelle. Elkhorn coral is present on the Atlantic coast, but less on the Caribbean Coast.

Are there identical programs in other countries? Yes, these corals are the subject of several breeding and restoration programs in Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Bonaire.

Where and how were the corals collected? As far as it is known, only restoration through cuttings seems effective. In one morning, thirty cuttings were taken from around La Caravelle with pliers. They were placed in plastic bags and coolers and transported quickly to limit the stress [on the coral pieces].

Where and how were the cuttings implanted? The cuttings were placed on pedestals—a mix of coral sand and cement—and glued on with epoxy putty. The colonies were then fixed on cinder blocks, about 30 meters deep, on Olbian Cay, off Le Diamant. Some cuttings were put on a kind of Christmas tree affixed to the bottom.

Will there be a follow-up? The Sub Diamond Rock diving club is responsible for monitoring and maintenance for one year: removal of algae, sponges, predator mollusks, etc. A growth rate of 10-15 cm per year is expected. The first few months will be decisive.

Who directs this project? The project is led by the office of Management of the Environment, Land Use, and Housing [Direction de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement, et du Logement (DEAL)], in partnership with the consulting firm Impact Mer and the diving clubs Histoire d’Air and Sub Diamond Rock. The operation is also part of the IFRECOR action plan (French Coral Reef Initiative), the DEAL is responsible for directing [it in Martinique].

For original article (in French), see http://www.martinique.franceantilles.fr/actualite/environnement/la-martinique-se-lance-dans-l-elevage-de-coraux-314455.php

For more on DEAL Martinique, see http://www.martinique.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/

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