The reef restoration and coastal erosion management project led by The University of Western Australia, the University of Mauritius and SunCare has entered an exciting new phase, transplanting its first batch of corals to restore lost reefs along the shoreline at Flic en Flac in Mauritius.
The research team includes Dr Andrew Pomeroy (UWA), Dr Nadeem Nazurally (University of Mauritius), Johan Louis (University of Mauritius) and Prof Ryan Lowe (UWA), as well as students in both Mauritius and Australia.
By bringing together coral reef marine biologists and ecologists, as well as UWA’s coral reef oceanographic expertise, the team has been able to build a more complete view of the complex problem of reef restoration.
For the past two years, the team has used on a combination of remote sensing, long-term monitoring, detailed short-term field experiments, and numerical modelling to understand the historical environmental and shoreline changes at the site, as well as the drivers of those changes, while also making predictions about the future.
At the same time, initial trials have taken place to cultivate corals in the shallow lagoon aquaculture at Flic en Flac as well as offshore using floating coral farms.
Over the next few months, the first batch of these corals will be transitioned from the cultivation sites onto the reef.
The transplanted corals will begin to repopulate areas of the depleted reef, helping to restore habitat for local species. As these reef communities re-establish, they will also play and important role in the management of coastal erosion along this section of coastline.
“Where and how these corals are transplanted is being informed from our detailed site studies as well by simulations of how reef restoration may affect waves and currents in the lagoon,” explains Dr Pomeroy.
“This will help the project to make informed decisions about where to place these corals so that the coral not only has the best chance of survival and reproduction, but can ultimately contribute to coastal erosion management in the future through the attenuation of wave energy at critical locations.”
The cultivation of coral has been a collaborative process, with support from a local resort La Pirogue, which has not only provided logistical support to the project but also established opportunities for resort guests to assist in maintenance of the cultivation sites both onshore and offshore.
Despite the challenges faced by a reduction in tourist traffic through the pandemic, a skeleton team has maintained operations at the site over the past months, continuing these vital trials.
“This project demonstrates how collaboration between research, local industries and the Government, as well as close stakeholder participation, can enable the development of integrated methods to address complex reef degradation as well as coastal erosion challenges,”Dr Andrew Pomeroy
This project is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission and supported by SunCare.