Earth Day Project
Inspired by Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are the most awe-inspiring environments to be found in nature and their beauty is beyond inspiring. We all know that they are endangered, but there is some good news. In the last two years several previously undiscovered reefs were found in Tahiti, Mexico and within the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the world’s most extensive coral reef system and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Global efforts are underway and in North America, The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program is working with other organizations to improve the quality of habitats and to enhance the resilience of coral populations. The program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve, and restore the nation's coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function. The focus is on increasing resilience to climate change, reducing sources of pollution, improving fisheries' sustainability and projects to restore coral populations. As coral reefs decline globally, interest in using coral gardening techniques for reef restoration is increasing. and cutting-edge techniques for propagating and restoring corals, as well as experimental work focused on identifying corals that can survive future ocean conditions. This process is effective in areas where corals grow relatively quickly, such as Florida and the Caribbean.
In Hawaii, NOAA’s coral restoration team devised an alternate plan which includes saving fully formed colonies that have become detached from the reef due to storms and other disturbances. With the assistance of University of Hawaiʻi mechanical engineering students they developed a new type of coral nursery that can hold very large corals.
The planet is dependent on the health of the ocean and the diverse ecosystem found in the habitats created by coral reefs for shelter, food and reproduction. The Northwest Hawaiian Island coral reefs, which are part of the Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument, area supports more than 7,000 species of fishes, invertebrates, plants, sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals. They are severely threatened by diseases, pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, and rising ocean temperatures causing ocean acidification. Scientists have developed some innovative measures to help reefs adapt to climate change, including bolstering coral microbiomes, developing lab-created coral, and propagating the hardiest varieties of coral.
Check out these websites to see what conservation efforts individuals can do to help save coral reefs.
For our Coral Reef mixed media collages, the class created very
individual interpretations using upcycled paper,
watercolor crayons and paint pens.