Reef Restoration Project
Reef Restoration - At a Glance:
In 2021 the UN declared 2021-2030 as ‘The Decade of Ecosystem Restoration’, stating:
‘just increasing the protection and sustainable management of our remaining natural landscapes and oceans will not be enough: the planet’s degraded ecosystems and the huge benefits that they provide must also be restored.’
In July 2021 Barefoot Conservation started its Reef Restoration Project. The project was set-up with the aim of accelerating the recovery of a damaged reef on the Eastern side of Arborek Island and as a long-term research project contributing to reef restoration science. The project has started out relatively small, however we plan to scale up our restoration efforts in the future (2022/2023 onwards) to help restore a 15,000m2 area which was damaged by a cruise ship grounding not far from Arborek Island.
Reef Restoration - Benefits & Technique:
The benefits of restoring coral reefs include:
- Carbon sequestration
- Improving fisheries
- Storm protection
- Generating income for local tourism
- Making reefs more resilient to future threats
Whilst we all try to protect reefs at a larger scale by reducing our carbon footprint, limiting pollution and eating sustainably sourced fish, at a local scale we are now actively restoring an ecosystem which will bring both environmental and socio-economic benefits to Raja Ampat!
The restoration technique we use at Barefoot is a ‘coral gardening’ method, where coral fragments are grown in a coral nursery for around 1 year before being out-planted to their final destination. This method has been widely used in restoration projects internationally and suited the goals of our project the most. You’ll find out more about why and how it all works when you get here.
Reef Restoration - The Nurseries:
The reef restoration project currently consists of two nurseries
- The Research Nursery
The Research Nursery was set-up by the Barefoot Conservation Project Scientists and is meticulously monitored each month for growth and survival of individual coral fragments. The data we collect from this research project is being used to answer critical questions in reef restoration science and contribute to our understanding of ‘best practice’ through empirical methods.
As Barefoot volunteers, you will be trained up in basic coral identification and monitoring protocol and help to collect data on this project. NB: Only once volunteers have perfected their diving buoyancy skills will they be invited to help collect measurements
- The Educational Nursery
The Educational Nursery is primarily used to engage the local children in the project to provide a deeper understanding of coral reefs and foster marine stewardship from a young age.
We plant a line with the children every month as part of a ‘Reef Warriors’ programme which runs in line with our Science4kids classes on corals and threats to coral reefs.
The children of Arborek love learning about the marine life on their doorstep and the different ways they can preserve and restore their resources. We hope to nurture this passion so that they can become ambassadors for marine conservation in Raja Ampat in the future.
Our coral nurseries are situated just a two minute snorkel from Barefoot Conservations jetty, which makes them perfectly situated for monitoring and maintenance.
Reef Restoration - How Will Volunteers Be Involved:
As a volunteer at Barefoot Conservation you will primarily be involved with the monitoring and maintenance of the coral nurseries. This will involve scuba diving weekly to the coral nursery and measuring individual coral fragments in the research lines using measuring calipers and underwater dive slates, you will work in pairs to collect this data. It will also involve general maintenance and cleaning of the nursery which we do every two weeks. We are monitoring fragments in the research nursery for growth rates and survival/mortality, our research questions are investigating the optimal initial fragment size for growth of fragments and also comparing survival/mortality between different coral species and using different materials. Through our research project we hope to establish the best methods for growing coral effectively, so that we can share our findings with the scientific community and also so that we can produce maximum output for when we upscale the project in the future.
If you stay for more than a month you will also help us to make new coral lines with the Arborek ‘Reef Warriors’ children, and help out with our coral classes.
Reef Restoration - Goals:
- To aid in the recovery of damaged reefs around Raja Ampat through active restoration, scientific research, and community initiatives.
- To improve livelihoods and marine ecosystem function through rehabilitating degraded reefs and instigating community-based coral conservation initiatives.
Reef Restoration - Objectives:
- Accelerate recovery post-disturbance- the reefs of Arborek island have been damaged as a result of anthropogenic impacts (boat damage, anchoring, destructive fishing techniques and irresponsible diving practice) and climate change related changes such as coral bleaching and Crown of Thorns outbreaks. Establishing an effective reef restoration project would accelerate the recovery of the degraded reefs, kickstarting the reefs to repopulate the area. Restoring damaged reefs will lead to improved biodiversity and increased fish stocks. As tourism is anticipated to return to Indonesia post-covid, it is a good time to be recovering damaged reefs in preparation, and also safeguarding healthy reefs.
- Socio-economic benefits and local conservation stewardship- beyond restoring the reef on Arborek, which should consequently improve fish stocks and tourism for the local community, the project will provide educational opportunities to the local community to learn and be trained in reef restoration techniques themselves. If the initial ‘pilot’ phase is successful, the project could be replicated, or handed over to the community of Arborek to restore further reefs and as a tourist attraction and potential source of income i.e. via sponsored corals. If the Barefoot project is scaled-up, it may also be an opportunity for employment of local people, with a particular focus on youth or women, or local internship opportunities.
- Scientific Research- scientific literature on the subject of reef restoration has highlighted a lack of robust, long-term data on reef restoration projects. Barefoot Conservation has the potential to collect regular data by trained scuba divers and citizen scientists over a period of 5-10 years or longer. The data collected during this time will aim to answer some of the longstanding research questions about reef restoration methods, and aid in future restoration efforts locally and internationally.
- Trial new materials and novel techniques in reef restoration- to avoid the use of virgin plastics, and the negative effects of incorporating plastic into the marine environment, this project will plan to trial the use of natural and recycled materials for as many aspects as possible.
- Scale-up to restore Crossover Reef- The long term plan of the project is to eventually scale-up the pilot project, with the lessons learned from the research project, to restore the large area of reef which was decimated by the cruise ship MV Caledonian Sky in 2017.
- Science Training for Barefoot Volunteers- The maintenance and monitoring of the project will require involvement from both staff and volunteers. As a scientific research project, data will need to be collected consistently and training will need to be put in place for a credible level of data collection to be achieved. The project will provide an additional element of scientific training to the Barefoot Conservation training programme and also improve volunteers’ buoyancy and understanding of coral reefs. Additional exercises in data input and analysis will also be necessary. The project is easily accessible and data will be relatively simple to collect.
Reef Restoration - Measurable Indicators:
- For Reef Rehabilitation Success:
Surveys on substrate and fish biomass (before, during, after) will provide empirical data on habitat improvement. Measurements of growth, survival and mortality in the nursery and after transplantation will also be used.
- For Community Education Success:
Levels of voluntary participation by children will act as a measure of interest, whilst increased understanding of corals will be measured through informed participation in the coral science classes curriculum. The long term goal of employing members of the community to maintain the nursery, will also be a measure of socio-economic success and marine stewardship.