Researchers from the CRTR Program are working with local communities to restore live coral cover to the reefs of Bolinao, Pangasian in the northwestern Philippines by sharing low-cost reef restoration techniques.
Emeritus Professor Ed Gomez explained how over the past two years, a series of training and practical sessions have been hosted by the program’s Southeast Asian Centre of Excellence to educate community members on these techniques, which have emerged as a result of scientific research in the region over the past four years.
Seventy people, including high school students, science teachers, village officials, volunteer overseers of village-level Marine Protected Areas, and fishers attended the first training session in April 2008. The two-day program involved lectures on coral biology, ecology and the basics of restoration. Some participants learned for the first time that corals or burak bato (literally, rock flowers) are living organisms that grow, reproduce and die. Fifteen participants aged 18 to over 60 were selected to become the first group of coral transplantation trainees.
For the transplants, the team used a well studied and highly successful local species, Porites cylindrica, and targeted dead bommies of this species. They used sustainable transplant material including “corals of opportunity” – broken fragments of reef that would otherwise have died – and fragments from experimental transplants.
The transplants were carried out suing only the simplest equipment – no scuba or adhesives. Volunteers wore only goggles and wedged fragments of coral into the dead bommies.
The transplanted corals are being monitored quarterly by CRTR staff for attachment and growth. As of September 2009, an average of 50% the transplants, have self-attached to the reef substrate and have nearly doubled in size.