Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Japan tries to restore its coral reefs

Scientists have undertaken an innovative project to try and restore Japan's largest coral reef by planting thousands of baby corals on tiny ceramic beds. 

Corals in Sekisei Lagoon stretching between the Okinawan islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote have plunged by 80 percent over the past two decades due to rising water temperatures and damage by coral-eating starfish.

"No projects in the world have ever restored a coral reef artificially...but we aim to restore the lagoon in some 10 years," said Mineo Okamoto, associate professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

In a joint project with Japan's environment ministry, scientists will plant some 6,000 baby corals in the seabed in December over a 600 square-metre (6,450 square-foot) district.

The corals are 18 months old and grow on round ceramic beds that measure four centimetres (1.6 inches) in diameter and have single legs for planting.

It follows the implantation of 5,300 baby corals in 2006. Only one-third of them have survived, with many dying off or damaged by dead and collapsed corals stirred up in the sea by typhoons, Okamoto said.

"We have learned lessons from the previous planting regarding what are the best places to plant and other conditions for survival. We'll make a fresh try," he said.

Model experiment

The attempt is the world's only large-scale project to restore a coral reef artificially, rather than trying to clean the environment for corals or nipping off branches of living corals for transplanting elsewhere, Okamoto said.

If experiments are successful, the Japanese team wants to try the method in other countries, Okamoto said, adding preparations in Indonesia have already being made.

"Corals are marine creatures but are functioning like seaweed in southern seas as they engage in photosynthesis to disperse oxygen," Okamoto noted.

"They invite plankton and then plankton-feeding fish, creating an ecosystem and fishing ground," he said.


Jeremy N said...

The Japanese are strange people. On one hand they fish the international oceans to the brink of extinction..... and on the other, they're trying to bring back their local ecosystem.

Yauming YMC said...

Yeah, they do tend to do illogical things. But on the plus side, they do make some really good cars.

Andrew Hall said...

once again its a different story when its in your own backyard.

Jeremy N said...

On the grounds that Shinano would have made an amazing artficial reef, perhaps Nisshin Maru could be used to help out.

Yauming YMC said...

If it was possible, diving on the Yamato, Musashi and Shinano would truly be one of the most amazing diving experiences. However we can still dive on the Prince of Wales and Repulse. It'd be really cool to be buried at sea on top of one of the deep sea wrecks. But yeah, Nisshin Maru haha.