The project will restore Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals by establishing coral nurseries to grow coral fragments and transplant corals at selected restoration sites.
Until the 1980’s Acropora coral species dominated the near shore zone of many Caribbean islands, including Sint Maarten, with cover estimates of up to 85%. However, these coral reef zones have almost disappeared from most islands in the region due to diseases, climate change and habitat destruction. Acropora corals are currently listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems and Species. The loss of corals has had large negative effects on biodiversity, biomass of fishes, and coastal protection as well as a significant decline in the attractiveness of shallow near-shore coral reefs.
“The dive ladies visited the Coral Nursery on the dive site ‘The Bridge’ and learned about cleaning and research efforts to maintain the nursery and its corals. On the second dive we conducted initial coral mapping of Elkhorn corals in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. This type of research is very valuable to recolonize and recover corals on the reefs of St Maarten” commented Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The Nature Foundation would like to remind that Scuba divers need to keep their distance of the coral nursery without supervision of the Foundation as the corals are very fragile and easy to damage.