Coral Reefs are one of the planets most productive ecosystems, home to between 6 and 9 million species of animals. And it all begins with one tiny, delicate, little egg.
Dive Instructor and Underwater Videographer, Alex Aubert, recently explored the genesis of a coral reef in a new short documentary called ‘A Coral’s Journey’. The documentary was made as part of an internship Alex undertook at Ocean’s Below, on Koh Tao. As a long time dive instructor at New Heaven, Alex was aware of the projects undertaken daily by the Reef Conservation Program, and wanted to get more people aware of the work that is being done.
In April, Alex joined on the coral spawning and larvae culturing project, to film one of the most magnificent events in nature – the release of coral eggs. As corals are unable to move around to find mates, they instead release millions of eggs and sperm into the water at the same time. For many coral species, this event happens only one time per year, and only for a few minutes. But during those few minutes, Alex was able to capture some incredible video, which make up the opening shots of the film. If you have never seen corals spawning, or are the type who currently thinks corals as being rather dull, then these scenes will surely amaze you.
The film then shows how the Reef Conservation Team fertilizes and cares for the larvae, before settling them down onto concrete tiles and placing them on coral nurseries. By using shots of our existing nurseries and artificial reefs, Alex was able to show in his film how the entire process of coral restoration works; from egg, to larvae, to juvenile, to healthy coral on the natural reef/artificial reefs.
The technique of using sexual produced coral gametes in restoration is relatively cutting edge, and allows for much greater increases in the genetic diversity of reefs, and thus increases their resilience over traditionally restored reefs. In most traditional programs, coral fragments created from donor colonies are used to create a feedstock of corals, which leads to decreases in genetic diversity through cloning. Often these mono-cultured reefs sustain heavily mortality rates during large disturbance events, and can even reduce overall reef resilience. We foresee that in the 21st century coral restoration will move forward to catch up with the science, and more programs around the world will start utilizing the larval culturing techniques in their restoration efforts.
Alex’s video helps bring this information out to the public, and hopefully also to other reef managers around the globe. Coral reefs are one of the planet’s most important ecosystems, yet also one of the most threatened. Increased awareness on the threats to our oceans, coupled with accurate information on ways to help, can greatly improve the situation and bring about the shifts in our society that are needed to protect these resources. Thanks for pushing that goal forward Alex. And to others, we encourage you to share this video, and as always do something (big or small) everyday to help make the planet better for tomorrow.
View the video here: