Regenerate the coral reef systems with Coral Gardeners
We wanted to share with you a little bit about Coral Gardeners. Titouan Bernicot, founder & CEO, grew up on Ahe, a small atoll in the North of the Tuamotu islands, where his parents had a pearl farm. When he was 3 years old, he moved with his family to Moorea, the sister Island of Tahiti (French Polynesiain) in the Pacific Ocean. Since he can remember he spend most of his time in the water, freediving and surfing, developing a deep connection with the ocean.
France is the only country in the world with coral reefs in all three oceans. 8 French communities are home to 10% of coral reefs in the world (Coral Guardian). In French Polynesia, almost all the 118 islands have coral coastal marine ecosystems (with the exception of the Marquesas Islands). These islands are not located in the famous coral triangle, but they gather nearly 200 species of corals, 1200 species of fishes and 1000 species of crustaceans. Coral reefs are, along with tropical forests, the richest and most productive ecosystems on the planet. Due to climate change the ocean water temperatures are rising and consequently (between many other negative factors) the coral reefs are bleaching.
The project was born on April-28, 2017, in Moorea. The team is composed by young surfers and fishermen nicknamed the children of the Ocean. By seeing the degradation of reefs in recent years, they have decided to take action. Young and motivated, launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, supported by former swimming world champion Florent Manaudou. Once achieved the objective, had press coverage in many media outlets, such as Le Parisien, Elle magazine, Le Figaro, Paris Match, amongst others. Thanks to these funds, they were able to embark on the adventure, and Coral Gardeners was officially created. Today, counts with more than 20 international volunteers, more than 7000 corals adopted and transplanted into the lagoon, and thousands of supporters, either local students, tourists or young people from all over the world. The team aims to take the project even further and launch a global movement of Coral Gardeners.
The biggest daily challenges
Coral is a unique and complex creature. From the family of jellyfish and anemones (cridarians). It resembles a tiny anemone called a polyp. Barely visible to the naked eye, a polyp builds a calcareous skeleton and lives in a colony. Each polyp in the colony contains millions of algae called zooxanthellae in its cells. These two organisms live in symbiosis. This means that while coral provides protection and nutrients to algae, they provide energy, food and oxygen to the coral. The association of all corals forms coral reefs. True underwater forests, they are home to 25% of the marine biodiversity known to date.
We are increasingly facing coral bleaching events. When the seawater temperature rises, it can upset the symbiosis between the coral polyp and its algae. The algae becomes toxic for the polyp which therefore expels it. As it is the algae that gives the coral its colour, colonies lose their colours to adopt that of the limestone that makes up the exoskeleton of polyps: corals whiten. If the situation lasts for too many days, as it will be the case more and more often due to global warming, corals die.
The importance of saving the coral reefs
It is estimated that 75% of the world’s coral reef suffer threats from pollution, overfishing and human activities or global warming, and coral reefs coverage has already declined by 30-50% since 1980s. Without proper action, all coral reefs are at risk of disappearing by 2050 with disastrous consequences for marine life. Why are coral reefs so important for our environment?
While covering less than 1% of the oceans, coral reefs host 25% of known marine life (source: IUCN);
Marine plants, including coral’s symbiotic algae, produce up to 70% of the oxygen we breathe (source: National Geographic);
Coral’s are estimated to directly support over 500 million people worldwide (source: IUCN);
Coral absorb CO2, via their association with algae;
With their beautiful submerged landscapes coral reefs generate US$36 billion in tourism every year (source: ZME Science);
Coral reefs provide a protective barrier against storms and erosion (source: IPCC);
Corals have medicinal properties for treatments against diseases such as cancer or AIDS.
IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature
IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Coral Gardeners’ mission
Coral Gardeners was created to save the coral reefs of Moorea, Polynesia and the world. They are raising awareness around the world of the disappearance of coral reefs, restoring damaged areas and working with scientists to improve their coral restoration techniques and by taking action to solve the problems that the reefs are facing. They create hope for coral reefs through education and coral reef restoration.
Raising Awareness – They truly believe that raising awareness is key to build a better future for the oceans, by telling the story of the reef worldwide, through conferences, school lectures, ecotours or social medias, they hope that everyone gets to know the importance of coral reefs.
Reef Resoration – First step is to collect broken pieces of corals and then put them on bamboo stems. They let them one month on the nursery tables before planting them back on the reef. That is the most efficient way to bring new life to the reef.
Science – Their scientists are monitoring the growth of the corals and improving the reef restoration methods and knowledge.
The team from Coral Gardeners is working to educate the world about threats to coral reefs and implementing ways to restore the island’s reef. The group transplants healthy coral fragments onto the reef to rebuild habitats and encourage growth in vulnerable areas. Through Coral Gardeners amazing program Adopt A Coral, you are able to help the conservation by adopting your own coral or a complete coral nursery table, you get to name your coral(s), receive updates and an adoption card, which you can proudly share. Is very simple to make the difference.
Image credit: Kelsey Williamson