<b>A New Approach</b> for the Great Barrier Reef

A New Approach for the Great Barrier Reef

Welcome to the Coral Nurture Program

The Coral Nurture Program is a new approach for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) that is initiated by a partnership between tourism and science. Our unique approach is not about “Reef Restoration” per se, but long term stewardship and adaptation at economically valuable GBR locations; increasing available management tools beyond existing options to include planting corals. This doesn’t just involve out-planting corals in order to boost live coral cover at reefs that have experienced a fall in cover, but also helps ensure reef sites with existing high coral cover that are economically valuable stay healthy. This program is funded through the Australian and Queensland Government Coral Abundance Challenge.

The Coral Nurture Program does not claim to “Save the Reef”. The sheer size and complexity of the reef, as well as the cost of interventions, means that saving the reef is only possible with effective global action on climate change, in addition to continuing the existing management of fishing, runoff and Crown of Thorns starfish. However, continued increases in surface seawater temperatures that drive marine heat waves which cause coral bleaching events are likely to keep occurring, even if climate policy is improved quickly (though much less so than if global climate policy is ineffective). In the meantime, we are trying to develop the know-how to buy time at a scale that helps coral at the most valuable (ecological and economic) locations. Other people are investigating the feasibility of attempting reef-scale intervention and we anticipate that knowledge from this project can contribute to future decisions. Indeed, a focus on site specific management, as demonstrated in this program, is key to success at any scale.

The Coral Nurture Program capitalises on the fact that tourism accounts for 89% of the economic revenue and provides 91% of the jobs created by the GBR. By utilising tourism vessel infrastructure, plus the knowledge, experience and skills of tourism industry personnel, interventions at tourism sites to either help recovery from an impact, or help adaptation to climate change, can be targeted to the exact need at each site, and be undertaken far more cheaply and efficiently than alternative options. In addition, tour operators are uniquely placed to share knowledge with the 1000’s of visitors visiting the GBR each day, enhancing the capacity for increasing public awareness in the activities occurring to aid the GBR.

Coral Nurture Program

A core objective of this program is to introduce coral planting into localised stewardship and adaptation. This is to help ensure sustainable reef ecotourism and promote education on the major threats to coral reefs and possible solutions, which involve the whole community.

Timeline

  • February 2018Research nursery started with a focus upon optimising coral propagation for GBR sites, topographies and environments.

    Wavelength Reef Cruises in partnership with A/Prof Dave Suggett and Dr Emma Camp of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) established the first multi-species coral nursery on the GBR at two of Wavelength Reef Cruises sites at Opal Reef.

    This start-up and pilot stage was self funded.

  • June 2018 to February 2019Feasibility of broad propagation and out-planting at a single reef site.
    (Australian/Queensland Government challenge “Boosting Coral Abundance on the GBR” Stage 1)

    UTS and Wavelength Reef Cruises were one of six successful projects to be funded. This project looked at solving the key bottleneck of reef restoration, which is the slow speed and high cost of out-planting corals. This was done by testing the effectiveness of a new out-plant method that had previously been designed by Wavelength Reef Cruises.

    The funding enabled scientific testing to be undertaken of the deployment of 25 research nursery frames and out-planting of 5800 coral fragments. This was boosted by in-kind contributions from UTS and Wavelength Reef Cruises.

  • May 2019 to April 2020Proof of Concept of broad propagation and out-planting at multiple reef sites in partnership with 5 tour companies.
    (Australian/Queensland Government challenge “Boosting Coral Abundance on the GBR” Stage 2)

    UTS and Wavelength Reef Cruises were one of three successful projects to be fundedThis project asks how the approach, which has been successfully implemented at a single reef, could be applied across different reef sites of the GBR. In doing so, a goal is to provide standard operating and reporting procedures to achieve scalability via coordinated practices.

    We believe upscaling is most viable with a collective effort of many people, in many locations. Following on from the Proof of Feasibility stage, this second stage has therefore led to the development of the Coral Nurture Program. The same coral propagation and out-planting methods are the foundation of this next stage, but individual GBR sites have different needs, so the developing network of practitioners is not limited to any single method.

    As a starting point, a selection of five high standard tour operators each with a long-term commitment to specific locations, have joined forces as participants of this pilot stage of the Coral Nurture Program. The number is restricted to five reefs for this year due to a precautionary approach, which is part of this Proof of Concept stage.

    The funding enables the essential science to be undertaken, without which such a program would be impossible. The project coordinators are adding in-kind contributions.

  • May 2020If successful, the Coral Nurture Program would become available for broad adoption across the GBR, to tour operators and other stakeholders.

    The participants will learn from each other, have rigorous scientific guidance and contribute to the knowledge base of coral reef management. The network will enable new science to be introduced to site stewardship and adaptation across a diverse selection of locations in an efficient and coordinated way.

© 2019

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