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Growing Coral: Restoration Success on a Maldivian Reef

The Velaa Private Island Coral Restoration Project, situated in Noonu Atoll, is home to one of the first large scale midwater floating nurseries in the Maldives. At full capacity, the five nurseries can hold over 10,000 corals.

In 1998, Maldivian reefs were subject to a devastating mass bleaching event in which the percentage of coral cover drastically declined from 40 % to just over 1 %. This annihilated up to 60 % of the country’s reefs. As coral recovery rates were improving, another mass bleaching event struck in 2016, which halted coral recuperation causing unparalleled and detrimental effects to these ecosystems.

Pic eco mag 1The structurally complex, fast-growing tabular and branching species were the most affected and suffered mass mortalities. This left Maldivian reefs with a low percentage of coral cover, elevated areas of rubble and less surface roughness – a characteristic which helps promote growth. Since this disturbance three years ago, the Velaa Coral Restoration Project has aimed to reduce ecosystem decline by resorting the integrity, complexity, and biodiversity of the house reef to enhance recovery rates.

The Velaa Private Island restoration project explores a variety of research questions, including the use of midwater floating nurseries in the Maldives, coral growth rates and survivorship within a nursery, and coral transplant success.

Since 2017, coral cover around the island has increased by 3 %, which was coupled with an increase in fish abundance within both coral transplant areas and their adjacent degraded sites. This discovery indicated a spillover effect from the restored reef sites demonstrating the success of the team's restoration efforts.

Originally, the project focused on coral species from the branching Pocillopora genus, however, to improve biodiversity, the team has recently been exploring various restoration techniques for different species. Inspired by the discovery of the successful method termed ‘micro-fragmenting’ by Dr. Vaughan, the team conducted their own micro-fragmentation trials along with initial studies on the effects of direct reef transplanting on survivorship and growth rates of ‘massive ‘species.

Pic eco mag 2‘To date, the team has successfully transplanted over 3,000 nursery-grown corals back onto the reef and we hope to double this figure in the near future’ says Megan Clampitt, Coral Biologist at Velaa Private Island.

pic eco mag 4Keep up to date with all of our current research by following us on Facebook (Velaa Private Island Coral Restoration) or Instagram (@velaacoralproject).

By Margaux Monfared, Coral Restoration Intern, Velaa Private Island

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