Always and foremost remember, coral reef gardening is one of 8 ways to restore coral reefs. When involved in coral gardening, you will be handling living animals, that although they might seem simple and senseless, they are very complex, delicate and prone to stressors, just like you and me or any other animal. Picture yourself being handled by a giant with dirty as well as rough hands, moved from one place to the other, without being able to understand or communicate with this being, doesn’t look very good now, does it? That’s why it’s of utter importance to keep in mind corals are living, breathing, complex and delicate animals.
Having said that, here is our 4-step guide for choosing the appropriate restoration project:
1. Background research
Coral reef restoration projects’ ultimate objective should be restoring a degraded reef to its original (or as close as possible) state. However, this is not always possible given that coral reefs are a very dynamic ecosystem. According to Hein and collaborators (2017), there are six primary objectives in coral reef restoration projects:
- Accelerating reef recovery.
- Re-establishing a self-sustainable coral reef ecosystem.
- Anticipating and mitigating coral loss in reaction to future stressors.
- Reducing coral colonies loss and ecosystem degradation.
- Educate reef users in alternative and sustainable lifestyles.
- Promoting collaborative handling as well as administration in coral reefs conservation.
Coral gardening has acquired quite a status as one of the must-do activities for tourists worldwide, background check is necessary so people don’t fall for coral nurseries showcasing.
2. Who is she/he? What does she/he do? How long has she/he been doing this?
Remember that first time you met your in-laws? An extensive bombardment of questions inquiring at you. Our second step involves a similar approach. As mentioned earlier, coral reefs are a very complex and dynamic ecosystem, intervening this ecosystem requires a certain amount of knowledge in ecology, biology, conservation along with restoration ecology, among other disciplines. Our advice before getting involved in one of these projects is to ask the following questions: who is directing the project? What are the team’s qualifications? How many years of experience do they have? What other projects have they performed in the past? A quick glance at the internet would be very useful in solving these questions.
We encourage you to visit the Coral Restoration Consortium’s website as a first hand tool for resolving the earlier recommended questions.
Ecological restoration projects must always have a social involvement objective, reaching out to both local as well as participant communities.
The idea of the whole coral reef restoration initiative should involve local, tourist, participants, together with scientific communities, making it a collaborative work throughout every phase of the project.
Taking into account the first advice on the article, we suggest the following questions to find how you are going to be involved: what knowledge or training will you receive before any in-site activity? What are the activities you’d be performing? If handling living animals, what are the preparation and precautions needed? Do I receive any certification? Answering these questions will take you a step closer to the most suitable restoration project for you.
4. Expanding your knowledge
Expanding your knowledge is always a good tool, before and after participating in a coral reef restoration project, giving you a broader view in the current worldwide situation.
At Corales de Paz, we recommend the following courses to widen your learning: Rescue a Reef from the University of Miami, the restoration training programs from Blue Corner Conservation, Reef Resilience Network’s Coral Restoration free online course, the latter as one of the widest and complete courses online; in addition to these, at Corales de Paz we created the Reef Repair Diver program, as a blend between theory learning within-site diving experience. Moreover, if you are looking for an intensive theory + fieldwork project, we highly recommend our Maldivian Coral Reef Restoration Workshop, a hands-on, in-water practical program in paradise!
At Corales de Paz, we believe these simple steps can guide you in finding the most suitable restoration project for you. Together we can bring coral reefs back to life!
If you still feel uncertain or have some questions regarding coral reef restoration, feel free to write to us in our contact section.
Translated and adapted from Recomendaciones para seleccionar el proyecto de restauración coralina a participar
Hein, M. Y., Willis, B. L., Beeden, R., & Birtles, A. (2017). The need for broader ecological and socioeconomic tools to evaluate the effectiveness of coral restoration programs. Restoration Ecology, 25(6), 873–883. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.12580