Can Microfragmenting Save Coral?

A Healthy Reef in Indonesia

A Healthy Reef in Indonesia

In the lower Florida Keys, a coral breakthrough has been made. Due to the warming and acidification of the oceans, almost ¼ of all the world’s coral has died in the past few decades. But now, there may be a solution.

Dr. David Vaughan, a marine biologist and the executive director of Mote Tropical Research Laboratory, accidentally found a “quick grow” technique for coral, which he now calls “microfragmenting.”

Eight years ago, while moving a coral colony from one tank to another, some polyps that had grown over the substrate onto the bottom of the tank broke off. Vaughan assumed he had killed those polyps, but a few days later they had doubled in number on the glass bottom.

This is how Vaughan discovered the amazing healing ability of coral. When damaged it races to regrow, perhaps to prevent territory loss. This is the basis of Vaughan’s latest ambitious project – one of the largest attempted coral restorations ever. With this technique, transplanted coral can grow up to fifty times faster than they would in the wild.

Vaughan and his team have already begun transplanting 4,000 microfragments from the nursery into the wild. And, although some parrotfish predation halted initial efforts, new steps are effectively combating this issue.

It seems that microfragmenting holds much promise. Dr. Vaughan is optimistic: “At worst, we’re buying time. At best, we could restore the ecosystem.”

 

Nantucket Conservation Foundation: “Preserving the Island for Everyone”

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a group of dedicated individuals working to preserve the wild parts of the island. The main focus of the foundation is land acquisition, which is achieved primarily through donation. The foundation also purchases some parcels of land using income from NCF owned and operated farms in the Windswept and Milestone Cranberry Bogs. 

The NCF is currently responsible for 213 properties comprising almost 9,000 acres, roughly 1/3 of Nantucket. Naturally, such a large quantity of land demands a substantial workforce. While the foundation employs rangers, stewards, and scientists, the volunteer program geared toward college undergrads is vital to the foundation’s success. Volunteers participate in various conservation programs, conducting research and monitoring both local and invasive species. 

One current project is a study on sheep grazing in Squam Farm. When European settlers first arrived on Nantucket, they introduced sheep that would inhabit the island for the next several hundred years. The subsequent grazing was what shaped the current Nantucket vegetation. Now, the NCF hopes to learn how sheep grazing can help revive ailing plant species. 

To learn more about the foundation and its very worthwhile projects please visit the website: https://www.nantucketconservation.org

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Madequecham