Restoring Coral Reefs
Coral reefs provide unique ecosystem services that are important for the species that inhabit them and the people that rely on them. According to the United Nations, the value of these ecosystem services is between $100,000 and $600,000 per square kilometer. We find a high diversity of species using coral reefs for breeding, feeding, and nursing young. Corals filter water, buffer shorelines from erosion, and store carbon. Humans rely on coral reefs for fishing, tourism, and other services.
In the Galápagos Marine Reserve, between 95% and 99% of coral reefs were lost between 1983 and 1985 due to extreme weather conditions caused by El Niño, coral bleaching, and bioerosion due to the high presence of Sea Urchins. Since then, some of the coral reef communities have recovered, but since the habitat conditions that they create are of extreme importance, it is key to know if Galápagos coral reefs can undergo a process of restoration through diverse strategies such as coral farming. Coral farming is a process whereby fragments of corals are collected from local reefs, raised in farms until mature, and then installed at restoration sites. With the support of Galápagos Conservancy, the Galápagos National Park Directorate will take on a pilot project to study and foster conditions for restoring coral reefs in the Galápagos Marine Reserve.
Why It Matters
The Galápagos Marine Reserve had thriving coral populations before climate change began to affect the oceans. According to scientists, between 1983 and 1985, most coral reef ecosystems in Galápagos were lost. Regeneration of these ecosystems has been recorded, but they are delicate and sometimes impossible for coral reefs to achieve independently. Due to its precarious process, a dedicated team and a meticulous strategy is needed to foment the regeneration of coral ecosystems in the Galápagos Marine Reserve.
This project aims to design and implement a functional nursery for coral planting in Bahia Academia and develop the restoration pilot project in the degraded coral reef community of Punta Estrada on Santa Cruz Island. The project also aims to increase knowledge and awareness in the local community about the importance of coral reefs for marine ecosystems and human beings.
The aim is to create a functional nursery in Bahía Academia to replicate diverse coral communities throughout the Archipelago and to establish a specific area for growing coral reefs before introducing them back into their natural ecosystems. The hope is to strengthen the awareness and knowledge of diverse participants to promote the protection and regeneration of coral reefs in the Galápagos Marine Reserve.
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