Coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. But, for most of us, they are hidden from view. We are blind to how these ecosystems might be changing.
Coral reefs face a number of threats – most of them are increasing with human pressure. One of the most pressing is coral bleaching: potentially fatal events caused by our warming oceans.
Corals are animals that belong to the phylum of cnidarians – a group of more than 11,000 water-based animals. Most live in marine environments. Corals use calcium carbonate in waters to build a hard exoskeleton.
But the key to their success is their symbiotic relationship with algae. They contain microscopic algae called zooxanthellae that photosynthesize (just like any other plant would), providing corals with the majority of their energy. Corals wouldn’t be able to survive without them.
This important relationship can be disrupted when corals are put under stress. One of the biggest stressors is warmer temperatures. When exposed to warmer waters, corals expel their algal symbionts, meaning they lose their source of energy. Without their algae, corals turn pale; this is why this process is called ‘bleaching’.
It should seem obvious why coral bleaching is a growing concern for the world’s coral reefs. With climate change, the global average temperature is rising. We often think about atmospheric or terrestrial temperatures, but our oceans are warming too.
The global average sea surface temperature has increased by around 1°C since 1850.19 Importantly, the peak temperatures in summer – when bleaching events are most likely to occur – has also increased in recent decades.
Coral propagation by fragmentation is a restoration technique that Bonaire project began with in 2012. This method is based on the asexual reproduction of corals and allows us to harness the natural process of fragmentation to propagate large numbers of corals.
It enables Bonaire to produce thousands of corals without harming the wild populations. By utilizing fragmentation, we can quickly restore coral populations using a well-established approach that has been used for years by reef restoration programs worldwide.
Nurseries which are distributed among several locations on the leeward side of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire can host over 15,000 corals. Each coral morphology is different and therefore there is no “one size fits all” approach. Depending on the species, corals are either hung from the branches of the trees or secured on trays.
Corals are selected in the nursery to be out-planted to the reef once they are “reef-ready”. This means their age, size, and overall health, makes them better-suited for survival when exposed to stressors that exist in greater abundance outside of a nursery environment.
Genetically diverse corals are then tagged, taken to a selected restoration site, and out-planted back to the reef, using various methods. Depending upon the species of coral and the environmental conditions of the reef, a variety of out-planting methods are used.
Like in many other regions of the world, coral reefs in the Arabian Peninsula, Pacific and the Caribbean have been subject to an increasing intensity of disturbances in the recent years.
According to a leading environment expert, a rise in the of temperature of the water has had a negative effect on the ecosystem in the region including Arabian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
As a result, 90% of coral reefs in this region have been bleached and are dying. The forest of the Arabian Gulf/Oman Sea ecological region include part of the southwest and all southern coast covering 2.039.964 hectares.
While in the Sea of Oman area, which includes a part Hormozgan province to Sistan-Baluchistan (border of Iran and Pakistan), Mesquites and acacia species are the main vegetation covers. Gum Arabic tree, used in boat production, are scattered in this area.
Mangrove forest which consists of two species of grey mangroves and loop-root mangroves, are also spread in this area. The mangrove forest habitat is located between the tides of the seas.
Experts believe that that urban and industrial effluents from desalination plants increase the salinity of the Arabian Sea, in addition to climate change, which has destroyed coral reefs as sea water gets warmer, while the habitat and breeding ground 75% of marine species is among the coral reefs.
Crickey Conservation Society 2022.