On the 27th of March 2022, LUSH Malaysia and Coralku (a conservation non-profit organization) collaborated on a Coral Planting Campaign. During this campaign, a total of 450 coral fragments were rescued and secured onto 9 coral frames, in addition to 25 coral fragments that were cultured by Coralku in their coral nurseries and divers from LUSH Malaysia got to outplant the fragments during a leisure dive at Karang Nibong Reef.
The campaign started early in morning as the tide was slowly rolling in. A total of 28 dedicated individuals gathered at Summer Bay Resort, Lang Tengah Island and joined the event. After receiving a briefing on the beach, the group from LUSH Malaysia helped Coralku’s scientists to attach opportunistic coral fragments (broken corals collected from the seabed) onto the coral frames. These coral frames are used in the absence of natural reef substrate to act as a steady base for the corals to regrow, and are used by Coralku in areas where coral reef degradation has reached critical levels.
Once the frames were completed, divers from LUSH Malaysia headed out to propagate coral fragments at the designated restoration site at Karang Nibong Reef. Coralku has started its restoration efforts at this site in 2021, and intends to plant 15,000 coral fragments here until 2025. The group secured the fragments with the novel coral clips, which are an innovative propagation tool that was developed by Australian marine scientists to enhance the scale of reef restoration. Luckily, the clips are easy to use and even untrained divers can help with coral clip propagation.
Within a day, almost 500 broken coral fragments were rescued, and all event attendees got to learn more about coral reef ecology, conservation and climate change. Coralku will continue to monitor the growth and health of these corals, and we hope that such events will rally more Malaysians to support ongoing coral conservation and restoration efforts to mitigate the decline of precious marine biodiversity.
Direct impact of the project
Both restoration methods are equally important to ensure the survival of coral reefs around Pulau Lang Tengah. The coral reefs surrounding the island are already under severe stress from constantly rising ocean temperatures, that lead to mass coral bleaching (a direct result from man-made climate change). Development on the island has also degraded large sections of the reefs, reducing them to isolated patches, which are thus at great risk due to the movement of sand and dead coral rubble. Without interventions efforts, the remaining coral patches would continue to decline and this campaign by LUSH Malaysia and Coralku particularly aimed at mitigating the ongoing decline of coral colonies by rescuing broken fragments.
Why this project is important?
Many of today’s coral reefs have irreversibly changed. What once were epicentres of life with stunning displays of colours and shapes, are now barren landscapes of dead coral rubble. Secondary coral assemblages, that are far less complex and diverse, have replaced the original and structurally complex coral reef that has evolved over many centuries. Just like shrubs that grow on a deforested land, these secondary reefs do not have the same ecological and economical value. Much of this change is attributed to human activity, and the worst is yet to come if we do not intervene.
Climate change & coral reefs
Ocean heatwaves are becoming more severe and frequent, inevitably triggering mass coral reef decline in a process known as ‘coral bleaching’. Coral reefs are the ‘canary in the coal mine’, as saving coral reefs means saving the climate altogether. To ensure successful preservation and restoration of coral reefs, a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is necessary. However, as emissions trajectories are currently unfavourable, scientific interventions are needed to find those coral reefs and species that are the most adaptable and adjustable to increasing temperatures. Time is running out, but our recent research suggests there is hope, as several coral species have shown signs of higher thermal tolerance.