In Colombia, scientists and local community volunteers are hacking away at corals with a special saw — all part of a plan to help restore one of the most biodiverse and important ecosystems on the planet.
Over half a billion people around the world depend on coral reefs for storm protection, food and income, but scientists estimate that 90 percent all the world’s reefs could die off in the next five years if we don’t slow the pace of planetary warming.
One innovative way to restore damaged coral reefs is a technique called micro fragmentation. With the special saw, corals are broken into smaller pieces — which stimulates the coral tissue to grow 40 times faster than they would in the wild — and then placed in shallow underwater nurseries for about 1 to 1.5 years to grow large enough to be transplanted into larger reefs.
Launched by the Colombian government, the “One Million Corals for Colombia” project cultivates fragments of coral in an effort to restore 200 hectares (494 acres) of coral reef — the largest effort of its kind in the Americas. The project is led by Conservation International Colombia and Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in collaboration with several partners, including local organizations, the national park system and area businesses. To date, more than 430,000 coral fragments are growing in nurseries around Colombia, and over 13,000 have been transplanted to reefs in 12 different areas of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.