When it comes to saving coral reefs, most of us feel pretty hopeless. Coral reefs are some of the most amazing and diverse ecosystems in the world, with a wonderful array of marine life in every individual reef. However, the majority of us are aware of the intense and overwhelming threat that these ecosystems face. Coral reefs are majorly threatened by human interaction. Because of coral bleaching, many coral colonies are dying and therefore the reefs are being destroyed.
Mass bleaching events are killing these ecosystems. According to The Guardian, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered from three mass bleaching events in the last five years. The coral reefs cannot recover from the intense bleaching they are going through.
Many of us are aware of these threats, however, a lot of us feel as if we can do nothing. Perhaps we feel that saving coral reefs is down to the scientists and policymakers. Of course, without acting now on climate change, there will be no habitat for any ecosystems to live in. This means big, societal changes need to happen.
However, there are some wonderful coastal communities and individuals that are being proactive in the protection of coral reefs. In this article, we will look at two great stories of coastal communities coming together to protect their coral reefs. We will also ask the question; is this all in vain?
The coastal communities have suffered a lot recently because of the global pandemic, especially in the northern regions of Bali. Because of the lack of tourism, many people are out of work and the beaches are deserted. This is hard for many of those living in the area, however, a coastal community has come together during the pandemic to work on saving coral reefs.
According to the Jakarta Post, more than 250 individuals got involved during the pandemic to help create structures on which corals can grow. Kadek Fendi Wirawan organized the project and got help from people who previously worked in the tourism industry and were laid off, and people who were struggling to find work. Together this community has built dome structures that act like coral gardens, protecting the corals and letting them grow safely.
The work by this community is really inspiring. During a global pandemic, they have been able to bring some goodness to the world!
Coral reefs make up a significant amount of the ecosystems along the Kenyan coast. Many people rely on the coral reefs for a living because of fishing and tourism. However, they have suffered because of pollution and mass bleaching events. According to Science Direct, The coral reefs of Kenya suffered 50 – 80% morality because of the 1998 El Niño coral bleaching event. Since then, coral bleaching in the area has only got worse.
Because of the importance of coral reefs to the coastal communities in Kenya, local people are working together to rehabilitate and rejuvenate the corals. According to The Guardian, locals on the Wasini Island, near Kenya’s south-east coast are growing corals and restoring the reefs.
Coral fragments are collected and then hung up in an underwater nursery. These are areas of the ocean that are mostly free from pollution and boat traffic. When the coral colonies are grown to a decent size and are healthy, they are then planted back into the original coral reef. Since this project began, locals have grown and planted more than 3,000 corals.
The effects of their work are incredible and can be witnessed. Since the coastal community started coral gardening, there has been an abundance of fish and other marine life flocking to the area. This is an amazing community effort and shows that when people work together, change is possible!
The Importance of Communities
These two stories are pretty incredible, and it does show that there are so many people willing to work together to protect coral reefs. However, you can’t help but wonder if all their work is in vain. A global change away from how we are living now is what is needed to protect the world. Are the actions of these coastal communities important, and do they make a difference?
The answer is yes. A research paper published in Nature examined different coral reefs around the world and found that reefs that were managed sustainably by the coastal communities are much more likely to survive bleaching events caused by global warming. Creating a positive community spirit in regards to coral reefs, with local engagement in marine management means that these coral reefs are more likely to be healthy and strong, dealing with heat stressors better than coral reefs that are not supported by a coral community.
A research collaboration involving Swansea University’s College of Science has also found that local community reef action has a big impact on the health of the ecosystem. They studied communities in Papua New Guinea that have strict fishing guidelines on and around their coral reefs. They have a system of rotational fishing closures that allow the waters to have a break and recover from fishing, and some of the coral reef areas have a fishing ban. They found that this created a boost of fish in the area, leading to a happier and healthier reef.
The role of communities when it comes to coral reef protection appears to be pretty significant. Of course, we need to put pressure on policymakers to make changes in regards to global warming and pollution, and without doing this we will lose the fight for our coral reefs. However, individual communities do still play a huge part in protecting the coral reefs. By engaging with the ecosystems and being proactive in rebuilding reefs that need help, and having rules about fishing and tourism, communities can protect reefs. When communities do so, the coral reefs become healthy and strong. This means that they are much more likely to survive bleaching events that may occur.
As we can see, there are so many wonderful coastal communities around the world that are working together to protect their coral reefs, and we should all take notice and recognize their work. Plus, we must ask ourselves, what can we do?