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BALI - Around the world the bleaching and dyeing of coral reef, as a way of recognizing the destructive changes in ocean and climate conditions, has begun. Along with these changes, the coral reef ecosystem has been devastated, affecting people whose lives depend on them. Changes in climate conditions will continue to affect coral reefs for some time.
But that is not all. The reefs are suffering even more destruction from direct air and water pollution, sediment runoff caused by deforestation and coastal development. Environmental exploitation -- including fishing methods that employ dynamite and cyanide -- figures into the equation as well.
In Bali, coral reefs have been severely damaged in recent years from the use of bombs and cyanide by fishermen, coupled with high water temperatures from global warming. The impact of coral reef damage on tourism and fisheries in Bali is all too obvious. In some areas, the stage of coral reefs decay are so bad that efforts are afoot to improve and protect them from further damage.
Sadly, despite the significance of the coral reefs for the tourism and fishery industries in Bali, restoration has been mired in slogans, but lacking in real action. Outside marine biologists, like American Thomas J. Goreau and Prof. Wolf Hilbertz of Germany, who found themselves challenged to help the cause of coral reef restoration in Bali. But, finally, there appears to be a wind of change.
Both are working through Biorock, Inc., a non-governmental organization (NGO), and Global Coral Reef Alliance; the two have been working on a pilot project in the Pemuteran beach area since June of 2000, building coral nurseries by using the Electrolytic Mineral Accretion Technology (Biorock).
Goreau said that Pemuteran was chosen for the uniqueness of its shallow reef. There is no other part of Bali with such large areas accessible to divers, he added, without the sometimes dangerous currents found elsewhere in Bali.
Most of the world's special coral reefs can be found in Pemuteran area, since Bali lies close to the center of the world's coral reef diversity. But the impact has been so great that the reefs like the ones at Acropora, Montipora, Fungia and Goniopora, can no longer easily be identified without detailed microscopic examination of their skeletons.
"Pemuteran reefs have suffered greatly from the destructive fishing methods using bombs or cyanide. Action is urgently needed to restore the reef habitat for tourism and fisheries," said Goreau. In their projects, they have enthusiastic support from the local community -- from residents to dive shops to hotels. "Their support has been invaluable," said Wolf.
Four months after the project began, for instance, three more coral nursery structures were added to the front of Pura Segara temple during the recent international coral reef symposium in Nusa Dua, Bali. The popularity of these structures in stimulating rapid coral growth that has blossomed already within months, leading to requests to expand the project.
The Taman Sari Hotel, for instance, assisted 18 new coral nursery structures along Pemuteran at the front of its building. These structures are located in an area parallel to the shore, between 50 and 80 metres from the coast in waters that range from about three to seven meters deep.
With 22 structures and length of 222 meters covering a two-hectare area, "this is the largest Biorock coral reef nursery and restoration project worldwide, exceeding the combined size of all other ongoing project," said Hilbertz. The new coral nurseries are made of steel bars, mainly one centimeter-by-1.3 centimeter in diameter. They are built in a variety of shapes.
One structure, the Nautilus, is 3.5 meters high, 3 meters wide, and 111 meters long in the form of an ellipsoidal pyramid. Six structures called Flowers consist of funnels of about 2.5 meters high, and 3.5 meters in diameter. These structures have numerous arc-like pockets along their sides. Another set of seven structures, called the Caterpillars, are 12 meters long, two meters wide, two meters high, and consists of open downward and upward pointing arcs.
Two structures are bamboo-steel composites, composed of 12 meter, horizontal bamboo legs. One structure has a single length of bamboo, while the other consists of two such units end to end. Another structure, the Big Bamboo, is built only of bamboo, wrapped with two millimeter copper wires.
Following the application of the electrical current, the steel structures grow a white, limestone layer, providing for coral growth. While the bamboo is not electrically conductive, the steel bars inside them or the copper wire around them grow limestone on their surface, which is expected to mineralize the adjacent bamboo wood over time.
Another project consists of mesh, which is 1.2 meters wide, and 25 meters long, laid over the bottom. "Especially for bamboo structures are still under research," said Hilbertz. An additional project on the other side of the bay in front of Reef Seen Aquatics uses wires directly attached to corals.
Since most of the coral species are found in Pemuteran, corals were collected from sites in the area to be transplanted onto the structures. Coral selected for transplantation has consisted almost entirely of naturally broken fragments found lying on reef slopes, or buried in mud below them.
"The higher survival rate is due to the improved energy status of coral, which benefits from mineral accretion, which has allowed them to survive starvation and stress. A few branching coral species that did survive have since shown a rapid growth rate in mineral accretion," said Goreau.
Coral nurseries receiving adequate power quickly turned white as mineral accretion grew on them, and began to cement themselves to the reef bedrock. "With mineral accretion technology, corals are able to grow up to ten times faster than normal. Even now many baby corals grow healthy," added Goreau.
The new corals and their structures have attracted fishes and marine invertebrates. Even some fishes that were previously difficult to find in the area begin to arrive. Large populations of small reef fish that inhabit only areas around living corals, have quickly found the coral transplants a welcome place to establish themselves.
Though the project is still new, it has progressed with remarkable speed and success. Goreau and Hilbertz hope that this promising restoration of damaged coral reef projects can be adopted and duplicated in other parts of Bali, and across Indonesia.

Posted in Environment @ 19 February 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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