Reef Revival - Full Episode
In. The spring of 2008. An 84. Foot pleasure boat departed, from Fort Lauderdale bound, for the Caribbean. 30. Miles south of Miami it's strayed, from marked navigation, channels, into, the shallow waters, of Biscayne National Park. Suddenly. Running. At full speed it, collided, with a coral, reef near, Elliott key. Corals. Sponges, and, sea fans, were instantly, obliterated. As the boat's twin propellers, plowed through the reef. The. Engines were disabled, and the, powerless vessel, drifted, in the wind until grounding, on a second, reef. Hear, the, wind and, waves rocked, the boat on its hull shattering. The ancient coral mounds, and pounding. The reef into rubble a. Coral. Reef that had taken centuries, to grow. Was. Destroyed, in. Just moments. Two. And a half years later Karl. Researchers. And resource, managers, are searching, for solutions to. Help the oceans declining, coral, reefs. Can. New technologies. And naturally. Occurring biological. Mechanisms, help, restore, lost. Coral, communities, and can. Ecological. Balance be, returned, to. Florida's, coral, reefs. Major. Funding, for this program was, provided by, the Batchelor foundation, encouraging. People. To preserve and. Protect America's. Underwater resources. Biscayne. National Park, is, an undersea, garden, filled with, multicolored. Sponges. Corals, and, sea fans. At. The. Northern extent of the Florida Keys reef tract its seagrass, beds, coral. Reefs and mangroves shorelines. Cover more than a hundred. 70,000, acres a gem. In the National, Park System but. An area, with, the history of damaging. Boat groundings. Carles. And Biscayne, National Park. And on a global scale are. In a serious, state of decline, due. To stresses, like climate. Change, disease. Outbreaks. And overfishing. Since. The late 1970s. Close. To 98% of. Staghorn and, Elkhorn corals, have, disappeared. From the reefs in Florida, and the Caribbean. Because. Corals, are having such a difficult time persisting. Resource. Managers, want, to restore, boating, impacts. Like, the 2008. Grounding, site. Researchers. At the University of Miami, have developed, one, of the first underwater. Applications. For mosaic, imaging, a technique. Comparable, to aerial, photography. On the land. This. Technology. Will create useful. Perspectives. Of the coral reef and the grounding, site in Biscayne. National Park. The. Diver swims, back, and forth in a lawnmower like, pattern, recording. Overlapping. Images of the underwater, landscape. Later. At the University laboratory, a single. Seamless image of the reef is produced. This. Is basically, an unprecedented, baseline, in terms of the amount of information that, you can get in a very short amount of time. Three-dimensional. Images, can be created over time to show reef areas, where corals, grow best the. Places, where restoration. Is most likely to succeed. New. Growths of soft corals, and sponges are, returning, to the grounding, site but. The boats most damaging. Impacts, are still, evident. The. Damage extends, several hundreds, of square meters and, really. There's no, easy way to document that so here we're able to use the video and, the stills to, really cover you know the entire area both the, affected area and also the community around it so that we know what. This area should look like when it's fully restored. Coral. Reef restoration gained. Traction in the Florida, Keys National Marine, Sanctuary, with, marine biologists. Like Harold Hudson, the reef doctor, and Ken, Niedermayer.
Hudson. A restoration. Specialist, for the sanctuary, perfected. A design, for, reef modules, that were used for the structural, repair, of a large vessel grounding. Site the, well would on molasses. Reef near, Key Largo. Nita. Meyer performed, the biological. Restoration. With, transplanted. Corals, grown in, his undersea, nursery, his. Restoration, plan, was validated. When it was discovered that, transplants. On the reef for spawning several, years sooner, than expected I. Was. Real excited I thought man this is amazing, because this is exactly what we've been trying to say. That we're gonna do which is reestablish. These you. Know spawning, populations. Of corals. It. Brought a whole new life to the possibility. Of not. Just putting corals back on the reef but re-establishing. Breeding. Populations, that could then repopulate. Other, downstream. Areas. Niedermayer's, coral, nursery, is the largest in the country and, a, model for many coral aquaculture. Ists here. You encounter, a hundred. Rows of coral, fragments mounted. On concrete. Blocks each. Coral, is attached to a disc with the label, designating. Its origin, and genotype, or genetic. Properties. More. Than a thousand. Staghorn, cuttings, are strung from, six line nurseries, suspended. In the water column by floats and crossed, tied with, horizontal lines. On. A line, nursery they grow down they grow to the side they grow all different directions and, another. Thing that's nice about them if a turtle or a shark. Or a fish bumps, against them on the, line they, just bounce out of the way and they swing right back to where they were if, a turtle, bumps, against a coral that's firmly mounted on a disc it'll, break it off. Niedermayer. Cultivates, staghorn, coral, one, of the principal, reef building corals and one listed, as threatened. Under the Endangered Species. Act, he. Cultivates, them in his nursery for a year, then. Transplants. Them to the reef. One. Of the things we need to be doing is preserving the, genetic, diversity that we still have and, if we don't preserve. As much of that as possible right, now we won't have anything to work with in 10 or 15 years. Research. Associate, Tom capo, and colleagues. At the University, of Miami's, experimental. Hatchery, are preserving. The genetic, diversity of, orphaned, corals, whose, survival was threatened, by storms, boat, groundings, and anchor, poles, some. Were recovered, from the grounding site in Biscayne, National Park. Researchers. Are trying to answer questions. About a destructive. Phenomenon, known as coral. Bleaching. What's. Going on is if disease is it some sort of water quality parameter, and many, of these questions, cannot, be answered easily, in the field so, the goal is to have a. Coral. Genetic, Bank a pole resource. That, we can provide. Genetically. Maintained strains of coral to bonafide researchers. Around the world so they can look at these problems, at these, issues and look, at them in a scientific, way. In. A partnership between Biscayne. National Park, and, the University, of Miami, trained, volunteers, assist, Capo, with the labor-intensive. Process known, as. Fragmentation. To produce a large, number of small, coral, specimens. Travertine. Plates, are marked, drilled, and fitted. With passive, integrated transponder x', or pit. Tags that. Will give each coral, a unique, identity. The. Large curls, are cut into fragments each about, an inch and a half in diameter. The. Bottom surface is shaped on a tile, saw. The. Fragment, is thoroughly, dried. Super. Glued to a pit tag plate and. Catalog. For, future reference. Half. Of the fragments, will be transplanted, at the coral restoration site, in Biscayne, National Park. The. Other half will, remain at the facility, for, monitoring, and lab, studies, to, help capo, and coral researchers, answer. Another, difficult. Question. How. Can we enhance all, this to make the only real, reef tract in the continental. United, States a viable place, rather than seeing deteriorate. Like it's been doing over the past ten years. One. Of Capo's research, partners, Martin. Moe a marine, biologist. In the Florida, Keys believes. He, has an answer, in. 1983. There. Was this tremendous. Plague. And it, hit only one, organism, and that was, the, long spine sea urchin Diadema ant alarum that, occupied, all the reefs of the Caribbean. The Bahamas Florida. They. Were all very. Densely, occupied, by, Diadema and, Diadema. Performed. The essential, task of. Cleaning. The algae off the reefs and. Conditioning. The substrate, so, that it would accept, and encourage. Coral. Growth and the growth of many different kinds of fish and invertebrates, within. One, year. Ninety-eight. Percent of all the Diadema ant alarum, from. The mouth of the Panama Canal all the way up to Bermuda, were, history, we're coast they all died quickly. At, first, divers. Like Candida Meyer were happy about the decline of the sharp spined creatures.
As. Much as I don't like getting stabbed by them I think they're important and I want to have them back. Like. Sheep grazing, in, a pasture, Diadema. Sea urchins, graze the macro algae that, grow on the reefs and inhibit, coral, reproduction, a lot. Of the problems are directly, related to the lack of sea urchins and if you fix, all the water quality issues, and fix all these other things but you don't fix, the sea urchin problem you're, not going to have a coral, reef the, sea urchins play a really important, role. Ken. And I came, to the point, of view that the loss of the Diadema was. Critical. To the decline, of the reefs now. Our coral. Reef decline comes. From many, factors, not just the loss of Diadema but, that is certainly one of the most critical, elements because. It's the Diadema that maintained, that balance between coral. And algae growth. With. Support, from the Florida, Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Nita, myrin mode did to experimental. Reef studies, where, they reintroduced. The Diadema, a year. Later the. Findings, were remarkable. Juvenile. Corals, increased, by more than a hundred, fifty percent. Coralline. Algae which, encourages. Coral settlement, and growth were sharply, higher and, macro. Algae was reduced, from, 11% to less than 2% I, started. With the Florida, Board of Conservation, Marine Laboratory. Back. In. 1962. Florida. Was a very different place back then I worked. With the keys and the, keys were magical. I remember. Going out and diving around the John Pennekamp area. And there. Were huge stands. Of Elkhorn. Coral, palmata. Beautiful. And there, was such a tremendous. Environment. And when I came back in. The. Late, 90s. The. Reef was so much different and it was so sad to, see what was, a glorious. Coral, environment. Just become for, the most part a lot of algae. Covered rocks. It. Seemed like the best thing that I could do was. To work with the Diadema, because nobody else was doing it and it. Was something, essential, to do. Martin. Mo is committed, to perfecting, the technology, to reproduce, our culture, Diadema, in the, laboratory. Today. He begins a new culture, process, or run by, selecting, Diadema that are ready to spawn. Immersing. Them in a, tub of warm water, stimulates. To spawn oh. Yeah. That's a male you can see the point. Sperm. There and this. Yes, sir. That's. A female so, we've got spawning first three how, about that. Okay. This is the product from the spawn. Apparently. A male and a female both, went which means that I should have eggs. In. Here oh. Yes. That. Is nice, I can. See fertilization. Membranes, are present around every egg, so. We know we have had a good spawn and. We know we've got good eggs and. Out of let's say five, million eggs were spawn here which, is our pretty good estimate and having those five million we'd, probably be lucky, if one, or two made. It although in nature made all the way through the process and became a juvenile, and, then. You'd probably be, lucky if one, of those survived. Into. Adulthood very. Lucky actually. The. Following morning he counts. The developing, embryos. The. Eggs hatch in about 18, to 24, hours they become blastula as they become prisms. Which, is the initial urging, shape, the. Embryos, are transferred to three larvae, culture, tanks, where, they will eat and grow for the next 35 to 45, days. But. Unlike other types of invertebrates. Diadema. Larvae will die if, they settle on the bottom of the tanks. Finding. A method to mimic the natural ocean. Current, to keep the larvae in suspension. Had, been Martin's biggest, trial during his early culture attempts. Maintaining. A sterile, environment had. Been another problem. Entire. Runs had failed in the culture tanks the. Weeks ahead will, again test, his system, and the dye además ability, to, survive. Meanwhile. The, fragmented, corals from the University, of Miami have arrived at the grounding, site in Biscayne, National Park. Volunteer. Helpers, swim with, buckets, of cement, and crates of tiles, to the transplant. Areas. Another. Group has reattached. Broken, pieces and transplanted. Nursery, raised coral, to the site and. Resource. Managers, are betting, on the, feasibility of a, new, restoration. Technique. We're. Going to be using sponges. To bind the rubble that was created by this grounding, incident, and this is the first time we've tried this and to our knowledge the first time that sponges. Have been used in an actual restoration. Project, for this purpose. Sponges. Are known to play an ecological. Role in binding rubble, in a natural, reef setting, there's. Also evidence that coral, will settle and grow more favorably, on an area that's, been bound by sponges. Each. Tile. 9, ABC, trees. We. Attach one sponge fragment, to each PVC, tree.
We. Cut these sponge fragments. Off of the parent colonies, that I showed you earlier, we're. Trying to get the cut surface. In. Contact with, the paper stone at, least as closely as possible. Service. Is fine, -. Whatever they're in contact with, very. Quickly if all goes well so. We, hope to come back and see these sponges. Growing. Down onto, the tiles and also up starting. To branch out. The. Idea that time. Once the sponges grow and start getting larger, that, you can then cut. Fragments, off of these and. Use them in restoration, projects. Centimetres. Yesterday. Slightly. Blackish polar. Watch. Carefully. On. A daily basis, in the beginning and. Then probably every week or so. Grow. When. They started to turn black we started to get very concerned. Not, knowing if we had done something wrong or not, knowing if we had potentially. Killed all these sponge fragments, that we had harvested. However. We're very relieved to see that even the next day the blackness goes away the, sponges are doing great and they appear to be reattaching. Very quickly to both, the rubble pieces that they've been attached to and also to the grow-out structures. For. 40, days Martin, Moe has been monitoring, the survival, and growth of the Diadema, larvae a week. Ago he hit a setback all. Three, cultures were struck by an infestation of, vorticella, an, organism. That causes competition. For food and a, decline, in the larval development. But. One of the culture showed a larger. Number of well-formed. Larvae than the other two, he. Made a decision to dedicate, the remaining, food supply, to the survival, of the well formed, culture, and abandoned. The others it. Might be the only chance for at least some, of the larvae to reach the settlement phase, now. This one is ready to come out and, we. Can check for settlers, on it and they. Settle as as larvae, and then. They go through metamorphosis, in. Which the, spines and the larval tissue all drop down into the rudiment, and the rudiment, becomes a little round juvenile. And you, can pull it out of the settlement like this and the, water stays in these little cubicles, and then. You put it right down into. The. Into. The settlement tray the water in the settlement, tray is all adjusted, for temperature pH. Alkalinity. Calcium. And it's, ready to, support the process, of metamorphosis, and the. Early, juvenile. After. They go through metamorphosis they're a soft little, creature, and, they. Can't survive as a soft little creature they, have to pull calcium. Carbonate, the, same stuff your bones are made out of out, of the water which is dissolved in the water and they. Have to form their hard parts and their, mouthparts so they can actually scrape. And feed and survive. As a. Sea, urchin rather, than a pelagic, floating, larvae, and. Then it can be carried and placed. Down, into. This Raceway. Kind of, facility. I call it a Raceway, there's. A water current, that moves all through the whole tank like this and as, they are settling, there it, keeps the water fresh and clear around, them and.
They Grow and they become little, little. Urchins, on these plates at, some point it becomes optimum, to be able to pick the plate up and put. It in a bucket and they'll stay stuck on the plate and then you can move them to any kind of a grow. Out area, that you wish. After. Four years of, developing. The technology. To raise lab cultured, Diadema martin. MO is nearing the end of, his quest, when. We get to the point where we can produce large. Numbers of juvenile. Diadema then. We can begin to research on what is the best way to. Re-establish. Them on the reef and at that point along with Ken's work with the corals and what. I've been able to develop, with the Diadema we, can come together and we can achieve at, least some, semblance of, ecological. Restoration on, the reefs. At. The grounding, site the, sponge transplants. Are healthy, and growing. Amanda, bork is watchful, as the sponges, replicate, their natural, behavior, in a transformed. Environment. But. It will take several years of, monitoring, before, the success, of this project is, fully known. Coral. Reef restoration is. An emerging, science built. On innovative. Ideas, lessons. Learned and. Continual. Refinement of, the, human technologies. That. Are helping nature, restore. Its, gardens, of the sea. Major. Funding, for this program was, provided by, the Batchelor foundation, encouraging. People. To preserve and. Protect America's. Underwater resources.