If you’ve ever seen Finding Nemo, you may remember just how many organisms rely on coral reefs to survive. Smaller, more delicate species (such as Nemo and his dad Marlin for example), benefit from coral reefs as a sheltered habitat, and could not survive in the open ocean.
Often referred to as the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs play a critical role in maintaining a healthy ocean. Among the most diverse of all marine ecosystems, coral reefs provide habitat and shelter for many organisms, they protect coastlines, help to recycle nutrients, and facilitate the carbon and nitrogen process many food chains rely on.
Unfortunately, these diverse ecosystems have slowly begun disappearing.
The evidence of human impact on coral reefs can be seen clearly in French Polynesia, which is a collection of about 100 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. One of those islands is known as Mo’orea, and has seen 50% of its reefs die off completely.
On this island, a group of young adults have formed an organization known as Moorea Coral Gardeners, and have begun rebuilding the dying reefs in their corner of the world.
It’s Founder and CEO Titouan Bernicot was raised in Mo’orea, where the ocean was his backyard during childhood. When Titouan noticed the health of the reefs beginning to decline, he decided it was time to take action.
He started replanting coral back onto the reefs. Titouan founded Mo’orea Coral Gardeners in 2014, and has since attracted attention and support from scientists, biologists, photographers and conservationists from all around the globe.
The mission for these kids is simple; education and restoration.
Through conferences and interactions with the public and with schools, Mo’orea Coral Gardeners use much of their time to educate adults and children about coral reefs, why they are important, and the threats that they face. They hold seminars and workshops, and firmly believe in the power of education in getting people to care about the issues and join their fight.
When they aren’t raising awareness, the team is in the water planting and restoring coral. Coral that has been damaged or broken off is attached to a small bamboo stick and planted to a metal frame just below the surface, and this acts as a nursery for the coral until it has grown just enough to be planted back onto the reef.
Reefs are amazing. Coral is an invertebrate animal that filter feeds from the water and develops its stony polyps to make an exoskeleton. Because it’s an animal, it is of course a food source for other animals, which are in turn a food source for even more animals. This develops a food chain, which is a basic building block of an ecosystem.
Without healthy reefs, everything unravels. So if they die, an entire ecosystem is what’s dying. It would be the same thing as wiping out all the life in a forest or a tundra or a desert.
Interested in keeping up with the Coral Gardeners in Mo’orea? Be sure to follow them on social media, or consider adopting a coral from their website.