02/28/2021

Environmentalists recover coral reefs destroyed by Hurricane Irma

3 min read
"In six weeks we ran some of our first tanks. We had 20,000 corals before Irma. Now we have double, "Vaughan told NBC.
coral reefs of Florida

Florida’s coral reefs are a state treasure. They are responsible for billions of dollars in trade each year and generate thousands of jobs. They are also the rainforests of the sea, since they are home to a quarter of marine life. And they received a direct hit in the last hurricane season, reports NBCMiami in a special report.

┬╗Approximately seven years, before the hurricane came, we built a coral nursery. It filled almost an acre of seabed. Unfortunately, after the hurricane, less than five percent remained, “Erich Bartels, a scientist at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key, told NBC.

“With a category four hurricane, we saw how these entire structures, with a 1,000-pound monofilament anchor that were entwined three feet deep in the sand, flew to Cape Canaveral,” said Bartels.

“In the last 40 years we have recorded a massive mortality of the reefs here. We are seeing the loss of around 95 to 97 percent of the coral species that were once dominant, “Alice Grainger told NBC. “It is an invisible crisis for many people.”

Grainger helps lead the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo. An organization that leads one of the largest coral relief efforts in the world.

“The project has been running for approximately ten years and in this time we have planted 70,000 corals in danger of extinction on these reefs,” Grainger told NBC.

The CRF has patented an innovative way to regenerate branched coral at an advanced rate. Healthy pieces of coral fragment and grow as a new colony; a nursery of floating PVC trees.

The CRF has patented an innovative way to regenerate branched coral at an advanced rate. Healthy pieces of coral fragment and grow as a new colony; a nursery of floating PVC trees.

“The water that passes by the coral allows them to feed. They have their polyps and they like it a lot. A furry coral is a happy coral. They get all the sunlight they need and grow much faster than if they planted 30 feet, “Dan Burdeno told NBC.

Burdeno is one of the proud curators of his coral nursery. “Our Tavernier nursery has about an acre and a half. We have more than 400 trees at this point. We are restoring the reefs. In fact, they are improving year after year.

The trees are also used in the Mote Nursey. There they are cultivating a different type of coral. Dr. David Vaughan, Mote’s lead scientist, explains that by not trying to anchor in something, it allows them to grow four times faster, “so we can produce them on a large scale four times faster.”

According to Vaughan, Irma only delayed his investigation a few weeks, he and his team take the corals and cut them into small pieces and then regenerate them.

“In six weeks we ran some of our first tanks. We had 20,000 corals before Irma. Now we have double, “Vaughan told NBC.

“Most people do not realize that they should thank the coral reef and our oceans every day. We could not even live along the coast in South Florida if we did not have a barrier reef that blocks the waves of storms and hurricanes, “Vaughan said. “If we like to breathe, if we like fishing, if we like to live close to the coast, we should be paying attention.”

With information from NBC

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