December 18, 2017

RC Expedition Facilitates Coral Reef Reconstruction in Bangka Island

Submitted by Gianfranco Rossi, Reef Check Italy

Coral reefs are in trouble worldwide, and Bangka Island, Indonesia, is no exception. Climate change, unsustainable fishing practices, and pollution are threatening this wonderful area located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the most biologically diverse marine region in the world. The Coral Triangle boasts  the highest number of hard corals of any reef ecosystem, supporting a flourishing, prosperous marine life.

Reef Check Italy annually carries out an expedition at the Bangka Island outpost “Coral Eye”, with the goal of increasing participants' ability to identify the coral reef builders. This in turn leads to increased knowledge of biodiversity in that area and, if done systematically, to improved monitoring of the health of the reef over time.

The methodology applied uses the Coral Finder, a plastified volume that enables identification of the corals directly underwater, which can then be improved in the classroom. At the end of the exercise, at least 20 different coral genera will have been identified.

In recent years,  a new serious threat has damaged the coral reefs of Bangka Island — iron ore mining. Fortunately, the local people have been successful in blocking further mining exploration of the island, but the damage has been done.  A team of experts, Biorock Indonesia, in collaboration with the local Yayasan Suara Pulau Foundation and other stakeholders, are now restoring the coral reefs using biorock technology.  This technology passes an electric current through salt water, favoring the slow fixation of calcium carbonate (aragonite) around a metal structure. When the minerals begin to cover the surface, the construction of the coral reef takes place.

Expedition participants fixed fragments of damaged corals, previously collected from degraded areas of the reef, to the mail of this pyramid-shaped construction. The objective is to facilitate the regrowth and transformation over time into a real natural reef, a worthy conclusion of global involvement proceeding from knowledge through recovery of a species more and more vulnerable to extinction.