Reef restoration is one of the Tropical Water Quality Hub’s primary areas of interest in our most recent research plan. Dr Ian McLeod at James Cook University’s TropWATER heads up a TWQ Hub review of coral restoration techniques across the world and will run a special Symposium workshop on emergency response and coral triage after physical damage from extreme weather events or ship strike.
There are direct actions that can be taken after coral damage that are likely enhance recovery. Divers can reattach or reorient broken or displaced coral, substrates can be stabilized and heavy machinery can be used to recreate reef structure.
For example, the Field Management team from GBRMPA and QPWS used heavy machinery to move over 400 tonnes of large coral bommies that had been pushed onto the shore at Manta Ray Bay in the Whitsundays during Cyclone Debbie back into the subtidal marine environment.
“After extreme weather events, we often see plate corals that get flipped upside down or branching corals with pieces snapped off,” Dr McLeod said.
“Provided they aren’t left to roll around in the currents those fragments are still viable and corals and will resume growth if they’re in a good position to do so. There have been many examples of divers re-attaching coral fragments using a variety of methods.
“You can save a lot of coral after a damaging event this way.”
“We have been working very closely with GBRMPA, QPWS, AIMS and many international partners on best practice reef restoration methodology. However, there hasn’t been a lot of research into the relative effectiveness of different direct actions after damage.”
The objective of the workshop, titled ‘Coral tipping, bommie rolling and fragments of opportunity’ will be to synthesise existing knowledge on physical coral re-attachment and develop a set of best management practice principles that can guide coral repair in the future.
“The workshop will be focused on drafting best practice guidelines and identifying knowledge gaps for ongoing research. When the next cyclone hits, we will be better prepared to help coral reefs recover,” Dr McLeod said.
Ian’s workshop will be held on Wednesday 18th July at 12.30 pm in the Urchins Ballroom.