Project speeds up reefs’ recovery rate
CORALS grown in Australia's first ocean-based coral nursery have been successfully planted on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reef Restoration Foundation on the weekend planted 100 corals grown in waters around Fitzroy Island, onto the fringing reef in a process similar to native tree plantings.
The project, which started late last year, has resulted in coral fragments - suspended in the water column via underwater "trees" - undergoing growth rates between 53-250 per cent.
The foundation's chief executive Stewart Christie said the project's progress off Fitzroy Island had exceeded expectations, in terms of coral growth rates, allowing the full cycle of collecting, growing and planting to be completed in just eight months.
"This reef-orestation process mimics nature and accelerates growth to enable reefs to recover from bleaching and cyclone damage faster," he said.
Foundation nursery operations director Gary McKenna said six areas, each 16sq m in size, were marked out to plant harvested coral on the weekend.
"A baseline survey of the existing coral and a fish survey of the area were carried out so we can compare coral cover in the transplant and control areas," he said.
"Three species of coral, acropora digitifera, acropora nobilis and acropora muricata, were attached to degraded coral using underwater glue and we will monitor both the effectiveness of this method and the placement of the coral."
He said the foundation was looking to expand the program at other high-value reef sites.
"We're looking at options for the public, community groups and businesses to be involved in helping this amazing environmental, economic and cultural asset," he said.
"Reef Restoration Foundation's goal is to grow 25,000 new corals on the Great Barrier Reef by 2021 as part of our vision to accelerate the recovery of damaged high-value reefs and strengthen the Reef's resilience."
Fitzroy Island's fringing reef was affected by consecutive mass coral bleaching events from 2016-17.
About half the shallow-water corals in the Great Barrier Reef marine park died during the bleaching events, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.