“Coral Reefs Around The World Grant Program”
The Reef Ball Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit charitable organization that has aided in the construction, deployment, monitoring and education of over 2,000 Reef Ball artificial reef projects with it’s “Reefs Around The World Grant Program” where groups could obtain free domestic sort term rentals of Reef Ball molds or at cost molds for long term and international projects.
Over the past 4 years, the Reef Ball Foundation has teamed up with Mike King of C.O.R.L. (Coalition of Reef Lovers), John Walch of Seaquest, Dr. Austin Kirby Bowden, CORALations, Applied Marine Technologies, The US Coral Reef Task Force, CORAL, REEF, The Government of American Somoa, Plantages PortoMari, Four Seasons Resort-Maldives, PADI Europe, The Marine Ornamentals Industry, Coral Life-Malaysia, The Reef Ball Development Group, Reef Innovations, Anthony Rosario Calfo, NOVA Southeastern University, Florida Seagrant, The National Estuary Program, NOAA, and countless other experts, volunteers, scientists, and organizations to develop a coral propagation and transplant system that allows Reef Balls to be ethically and safely “seeded” with nearly any species of hard or soft coral.
This seeding process can speed up the development of a coral reef community on Reef Balls by 10-25 years…. making a viable coral reef possible in just a few years and an intermediately mature community in 5-10 years. We have documented some faster growing coral species to reach 22 inches of branching growth (starting from a fragment less than 1 inch in length) in just 8.5 months.
Months Growth on Reef Ball)
In our Puerto Rico project, this particular Acropora
species reached 18 inches in height with 24-48 branches in just 18 months.
Of course, many corals grow much slower, but the propagation process
speeds up the process greatly.
Propagation, or the asexual reproduction of corals, has many advantages. Most importantly, wild corals do not have to be sacrificed to seed the Reef Balls. All the fragments used not only come from imperiled corals, they represent new colonies which are genetically identical to the mother coral. Being genetically identical, it is also possible to propagate corals that have natural resistance to threats such as pollution, changes in salinity, bacterial; fungal or viral diseases, predation, or other threats.
This means for the first time, we can begin to create stock
reserves of precious corals that are threatened in our oceans, sanctuaries, and
unique ecosystems worldwide.
In addition to creating protected coral stocks, creating
coral reefs can help offset the economic and biological losses of natural reefs.
Seeded Reef Balls are much more than artificial reefs, they are in fact,
infant natural reefs destined to become mature coral reef ecosystems over time.
Unlike coral restoration efforts of the past that have cost
millions of dollars to do restorations less than the size of a football field,
This new system can be deployed and transplanted at a fraction of the cost.
And it’s so simple; we have achieved excellent results with volunteers
trained in just a two-week program for a specific local area.
This year’s Reef Ball Foundation Project of the Year Award goes to
Plantages PortoMari, a sustainable development property in Curacao where
dedicated volunteers built, deployed, propagated, transplanted and monitored
hundreds of Reef Balls. It’s
living proof that coral reefs can be created in a practical way.
So, how does it all work? Scientists have known for years that small fragments of corals, if properly stabilized and placed in suitable environmental conditions will grow into full adult colonies of corals. It’s just like taking a cutting from a tree limb and coxing it to root and form a new tree. In the past, there were some failures because scientists tried to transplant full adult colonies….just like moving a full grown oak tree…that presented problems. Not only is it physically difficult and therefore expensive to do, but just like the oak tree…if the coral was not in the exact same conditions (i.e. current, light, orientation, etc.) it tended to die. (It’s called coral morphology…i.e. a coral [or a tree for that matter] grow according to the local conditions. That’s why a tree in less light is tall and stringy where one in more light is short and stocky…or in wind it’s limbs are bent away from the breeze…corals are more or less the same, but even more sensitive. Also, since corals are colonial animals, if one polyp is injured and gets a disease from the stress, that can kill the whole colony. Starting with tiny fragments is far more successful. First, it’s easy and you don’t kill the mother coral to start your transplant. Like the tree example you can just wait for a storm to break off a limb then get it for transplanting. In fact, you can probably find many limbs after a storm just like you can with corals. Then, you transplant all of these tiny fragments onto your Reef Ball…let’s say that just 50% survive, that’s more than enough to establish many adult colonies without harming a single adult colony. In fact, normal survival rates of hard coral fragments are between 85-99%….not 50%.
How do you “stabilize” the fragments? This was part of the technology developed by the aquarium industry, Reef Ball Development Group, and other scientists. Using a special 1-3 minute setting concrete that is pH neutralized and highly liquidized, we are able to fill a tiny medicine cup up with liquid concrete, sprinkle a bit of antibiotics on top to help fight infection, and then gently place our fragments to be embedded into the concrete. Within seconds, the “plug” and it’s new coral is back into the water. Within 20 minutes, it’s ready to be transplanted into special receptor holes already built into the Reef Balls.
This means that you can gather your “limbs”, cut them, embed them in concrete and place them back on your Reef Balls in just a few hours. Except for a few special corals (soft corals that don’t have a woody stem inside) that require some grow out time to attach to the plugs, there is no additional captive stress on the fragments.
Why don’t you use some kind of special glue and just do all the work underwater? We’ve designed a process to require very little working time underwater…that’s where most of the expense (and failures) of prior restoration projects came from. In order to build realistic sized reefs, it’s better to do your preparation work boat or landside and be more efficient underwater.
I thought touching corals kills them? The whole process requires training…. that training will be given to groups through the Reef Ball Foundation as part of the “Coral Reefs Around The World Grant Program”. The whole training process has too many details to go into in this short introduction, but the highest ethical standards are used in this program to insure only positive results and no harm to natural coral reefs.
So what’s different about Coral Reefs Around The World Grant Program compared to Reefs Around The Word Grant Program? It’s really just an extension. Instead of just getting molds, recipients will also be able to get the propagation and transplant training to conduct the projects. Additionally, corporations or other donating entities will have the opportunity to sponsor Coral Transplant Tool Kits…each one designed to provide all the materials to transplant 500 corals. Grant recipients will be donated these tool kits as needed to expand their work. The cost to sponsor a Coral Transplant Tool Kit is just $1000…two bucks a coral! (We will also offer smaller and larger tool kits that also equate to two bucks per coral). Corporate logo stickers will be affixed to each toolbox kit when supplied.
This is great, how do I get involved? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website, www.artificialreefs.org to learn more.
On Another Important Matter a SPECIAL THANK YOU:
The Reef Ball Foundation received $2500 from the
South East Scuba Retailers Association. These funds were the proceeds from
SESRA's South East Dive Day and Treasure Hunt and the Reef Ball Foundation was
very grateful to be the beneficiary of this event and would like to thank
everyone at SESRA and give a special thanks to George Krasle of Diving World USA
in Atlanta for being an advocate and friend of the foundation. Reef Ball would
also like to thank Eric Krasle for his continued enthusiastic support of Reef
Ball and for also having such a great father.
Need more information? Contact us:
Reef Ball Foundation, Inc.
Bradenton, Florida 34207 USA