Restoration & Rehabilitation
A first of its kind project in India, ReefWatch launched a conservation program restoring and rehabilitating coral reefs in the Andamans. This project has two tangents to achieve our goals of restoring a coral reef – Re(ef)Build and Re(ef)Grow. Re(ef)Build concentrates on physically restoring artificial reefs, helping maintain species diversity on our artificial reef. Re(ef)Grow on the other hand is the part of the project that will help maintain genetic diversity on our artificial reef, through identifying when corals spawn in the Andaman Islands, collecting the released genetic material, artificially fertilizing and growing them in a wet lab to enhance the genetic pool of corals.
This program involves rescuing naturally broken coral fragments – that would otherwise be smothered by the sand and die – and re-attaching them to a robust substratum, such as a metal structure. By collecting these broken fragments and securing them to an unmoving frame, their survival rate would increase. This in time will grow into an artificial coral reef. In total our site in Chidiyatapu has 9 structures that have been populated with coral fragments.
Additionally, we have attached mineral accretion devices to these metal structures. These devices, based on the principle of electrolysis, supply a mild electric current through a solar source to the iron frameworks. This will ensure quicker accretion of calcium carbonate, which helps the reef grow 7 – 12 times faster than normal and leaves the coral with more of an energy budget that it can use to survive warmer temperature spells and coral disease.
As a tangent of the main restoration and rehabilitation of coral reefs, ReefWatch intends to identify the timing and intensity of natural coral spawning in the Andaman Islands.
Spawning is a natural process of sexual reproduction in corals and often mass spawning events occur where multiple colonies of multiple species all spawn on the same night. Mass spawning events occur about once or twice a year on a specific night around the time of a full moon. A number of intricate and delicate processes affects the occurrence of these events, where a number of factors such as temperature, day length, tide height and salinity play a major role in acting as cues for coral to mature and spawn.
Understanding the timing and intensity of coral spawning in an area provides us with important indicators of reef health and resilience.
While in the process of figuring out when corals spawn, the wet lab that has already been built is being used to experiment with micro-fragmentation of corals.