Monday, 17 Nov, 2008 Environment

Scientists in an Unprecedented Experiment to Restore the Largest Coral Reef in Japan


Researchers look forward to restore the largest coral reef of Japan. They intend to plant thousands of baby corals that would grow on small ceramic beds.

It is worth noting that corals found in Sekisei Lagoon extend between the Okinawan islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote. Over the last 20 years these corals have plunged by 80%. This is mainly because of continuously increasing water temperatures and damage caused by starfish.

According to Mineo Okamoto, who works as the associate professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, the current project is considered to be unprecedented since no one ever tried to revive a coral reef artificially. He said that the lagoon would have its wonderful coral reefs back in 10 years.

Scientists will work in cooperation with environment ministry of Japan. Their plan is to plant about 6,000 baby corals in December. The corals will cover a territory of 600 sq. m. (6,450 square-feet). The corals are 18 month of age. They develop on round ceramic beds that have a diameter of 4cm (1.6inches).

In 2006 scientists managed to plant 5,300 baby corals, 30 of which survived. Most of them either died off or were damaged by other corals that died and fell, being stirred up in the waters by typhoons.

Mr Okamoto stated that this large-scale project is the only one that aims to revive a coral reef artificially, instead of cleaning the environment for corals or transplanting coral branches in another location. In case the experiment proves to be successful, scientists intend to apply their technique in other countries. Mr Okamoto mentioned that the next country were new corals will be revived is Indonesia, were preparation works have already started.

"Corals are marine creatures but are functioning like seaweed in southern seas as they engage in photosynthesis to disperse oxygen. They invite plankton and then plankton-feeding fish, creating an ecosystem and fishing ground," said Mr Okamoto.

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