Coral Gardening: Frontline in the Battle Against Climate Change | Dr Austin Bowden-Kerby | TEDxSuva

Coral Gardening: Frontline in the Battle Against Climate Change | Dr Austin Bowden-Kerby | TEDxSuva

this is our home the planet Earth a beautiful place to live I wouldn't want to go to any other planet really the coral reefs the oceans the tropical rainforests the deserts what a beautiful home we have but we all know that this home is in big trouble because we are part of this home and we are out of balance human societies are out of balance this is the biggest crisis that humanity has faced in my lifetime at least this is a very big crisis and everyone in this audience understands that we are in unity in understanding about this crisis our our home has a fever and that is called climate change the Earth's atmosphere has been changed by our action the chemistry of the oceans has been changed this is a crisis 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded since 1880 since records began being kept we cannot deny that January of 2016 the hottest January ever recorded February the hottest February recorded March was the hottest month ever recorded on the planet not just the hardest March the hottest month I'm a coral reef scientist and I am concerned the very first system that is predicted to collapse is the coral reef system and right now as I speak coral reefs all over the planet are in dire condition of decline we thought we were making so much progress and we were in conservation of those reefs we had only lost 20% of those reefs and we were making progress in saving the rest but beginning last year and in continuing the longest coral reef bleaching ever recorded where the corals have become white and very sick and most of them the ones that have bleached are going on to die and in Great Barrier Reef 93% of the reef surveyed have major bleaching going on right now and on the severe but northern part of the reef the severely bleached reefs over 90% of the corals less than 1% actually of the corals are are not bleached so it's a huge die-off so it's the biggest die-off in history so with climate change because the coral reefs are the most sensitive of all the systems this is the system that we have to work on saving now if we can save this system we can save the planet if we fail to save the coral reefs what system is next the mangroves will go as the waves crash into the mangroves the sea grasses will go the beaches will go this is very serious we must make a stand and coral reefs is the natural point of making a stand coral reefs are incredibly important to the island nations of the world the tropical coasts the foundation of our economy is tourism and the tourists come for the beaches they come for the beautiful snorkeling and diving if the reef is gone our economy is affected greatly coral reefs also provide the foundation of our food security many of our islands that's the primary protein source and it's very healthy fish is the healthiest of all the proteins and delicious so we lose the reefs we lose this richness coral reefs protect our Islands they protect our shores and they build our Islands entire nations are built by coral reefs if we lose coral reefs we will lose entire islands the sea is coming up it's rising coral reefs can grow faster than the present rates of rising if they're healthy but if they're dead they won't keep up with the sea level rise so even as sea level rises they will provide a protection as long as they're healthy now coral reefs are a combination of many plants and animals living together including fish and lobsters and if all the fish and lobsters are there and an octopus and everything you have a healthy system and parrotfish are one very important thing as a coral dies naturally some corals do die and parrotfish grind those dead corals up and they produce sand so when you next time you go to the beach think about it you are having a great time building a sandcastle it's really just parrotfish poop so overfishing and things like that can damage that system we need the fish as intricate integral to the coral reef so corals actually do not stand much of a chance without the fish I'll get back to that little one okay what are corals are corals animals plants are they rocks well they have polyps and they they are animals if you look you can actually see on this picture you can actually see the little polyps close up like a little flower they have a little mouth they have tentacles and they move but inside those animals are brown algae microscopic algae which most of the energy of those corals comes from the sunlight so they are photosynthetic so there are plants in a sense as well and they are definitely because if you step on them you cut your feet if you hit your boat engine you broke the engine okay so they are all three it's the only thing like it it's a miracle species we need those corals and they are very fragile and they're very delicate the polyps are more like they're naked so it's more like the inside of our eye if we get a drop of gasoline in our eye or chilly or anything any chemical that's in the water interacts directly with the tissues of the coral so they're very sensitive when there's muddy runoff that affects the corals and disease organisms come bacteria viruses fungi most of the coral diseases are actually coming from the land they even the human intestinal bacteria cause–'cause have been implicated in the coral disease overfishing can damage the reef there are many things that eat corals you know corals are good food so lots of snails crown of thorns starfish a lot of things eat corals and normally they're not a problem but if you remove the things that control the coral killers those coral killers will kill the whole reef if you remove the lobsters you get a plague of snails that are coral killing types of snails if you remove crown of tritons trumpets and humphead wrasse –is you'll get the crown of thorns starfish okay so how do we protect coral reefs we got to have all the species there so the scientists came up with this great idea no fishing areas well guess where they got it from the Pacific Islands this was a traditional thousand year old I dia you close an area of reef you make a tumbu or tapu or couple right and there were permanent tombow areas on the reef sacred reefs that no one would ever fish and so with that natural balance and the fish would spill out there would be reproduction that would be all the health was maintained and you had many more fish for the communities to eat so scientists say we should close 30% of the reef for maximum fisheries okay now I'm gonna tell you my story okay I'm a marine biologist as I said I was in Micronesia from the time I was a child in the Pacific Islands and I got married in 1979 and my wife and I moved to Kaneesha in the in I was teaching school in one of the islands and we noticed a lot of hunger a lot of suffering if you look at the children you'll see the large stomach it's a sign of protein deficiency you see the swollen eyes vitamin A deficiency the children couldn't see at night and they were deficient because there are no vegetables in this place they don't get the vitamin A from carrots they get it from fish eyes and fish liver the traditional vegetable in many places in the Pacific is are they insides in the head of the fish because they have tree crops coconuts and breadfruit they don't have a place to grow cabbages or carrots right so the people were suffering because the reef was dead and that's what got me interested in this they had the highest at this time they had the highest suicide rate on the planet in this group of islands and the young men in particular were killing themselves and it turns out that this is how young men become from child to adult is to go out and go fishing spearing the fish fighting the Sharks for your spring of fish all those manly things that you do on the reef to bring home food to your family and that was important socially without the fish it was destroying the culture ok dynamite fishing it breaks the corals up and I started studying this and found out the corals can come on the pieces of broken coral new new baby ones come but they turn over and and so they die so I tried breaking up corals branches of corals and throwing them down and I got instant reef instant reef this is in about 1980 and so I was very encouraged and people said Austin you should go get a degree on this one so I wanted to go and study this so I went to the Caribbean why the Caribbean because the Caribbean was further along in population pressure and this is a Caribbean reef but most of the reefs do not look like that they've lost over two-thirds of their coral on the reefs of the Caribbean and so I wanted to study these staghorn corals because they are the true like ones that the fish I like to stay in and these are endangered species so they became endangered species listed in 2006 the very first coral species on the endangered list this is a bleached one major bleaching hit the Caribbean in 2005 and wiped out there's probably got 1% left that are less but the promising thing is that what was surviving did it that didn't bleach was thermally tolerant it was strong the ones that didn't get disease were strong so the few that were left were stronger and I started working on my thesis and testing corals and you can see some of the corals this is in 2005 bleaching some of the corals are bleached and some are not some are half bleached and you can select the corals okay so these are the methods you see cookies lines different things beautiful growth very encouraging we get beautiful visitors to encourage us even more the corals are growing the fish are coming back the frame method you can see you can barely see them in the beginning and at six months at 12 months and at 18 months they have to be trimmed because they're starting to kill each other they're growing so fast and so with these trimmed corals we can plant ropes which even grow faster and in a year they're like this and oh my gosh the corals grow so fast and this is the endangered species this is the best fish habitat it's the fastest growing coral in the world staghorn coral so at this point we must trim it because it will spawn it will convert up to 40% of its entirety shoes will become sperm cells and egg cells in a mass spawning once a year and then the corals are weak and they're likely to get diseased so we don't want them to spawn because there's so few we don't want them to die of spawning okay neither you okay okay so we trim them and we carry the fragments to restoration sites where we want them to grow and then they can spawn once they get in the restoration site so we plug them in and they grab on by themselves in many places where it's not very strong waves so and the little different species this is Elkhorn coral the cookies and we so this is a restored reef where there were had been no none of those calls before we planted the squirrels and it's amazing very encouraging okay this is laughing bird key National Park in Belize a woman there lisa kahn a local woman was studying the corals and trying to restore the Elkhorn corals the plate-like ones and we met up with each other we got a grant and in 2009 we went there and we started working on the staghorn corals I showed her the techniques and in 2005 those two species of corals had become completely extinct and based upon the work that I started in that she's continued with all her volunteers they've planted over 50,000 corals and the entire reef that was dead has come alive and it's been this is the best example I know of the problem is this is the best example where are the examples other examples in the world this has to be done on much more massive scale because the scientists are predicting that by the year 2050 the coral rates will be gone as a system and now that we've had this massive bleaching they make up the year and maybe 30 years instead of 30 years 20 years we have to do this on a massive scale and so this is my concept coral gardening we have to ask the resort's the tourism industry look you're the ones benefiting from the reef you're the ones your industry will collapse if the reef is gone can you please hire a coral gardener if we train them it'll only be local staff one or two it's not gonna cost millions of dollars can you hire one we have hundreds of resorts in this country in Fiji so what would they do just what I did they would get the resistant corals make nurseries they would when they got big pruned them and make restoration patches on the reef and the guests would love it so you would get a step you would work to establish no fishing areas around that so that you get the balance and you'd have to work with the communities get the resorts in the community to work because the communities need the reefs for their food and the resort needs the reason is the reefs for their business so everybody has would win from that situation and getting everybody involved together so corals excite people they get people in it's like a ray of hope in this really dark time we need this ray of hope we need some hope and this is something that people can do and it's something that can be done on a small scale repeated repeated repeated repeated repeated and become a major impact the corals are beautiful they grow quickly we plant them to dead reefs this was a dead reef and the instant reef you just plant them there abou there in the lagoon they don't wash away if it's in rough water worth place you just cement them down and now I'm asking you if you like this idea what can you do what can you do to help save the reefs would you like to be a coral gardener are you in a situation where you could be a coral gardener are you a resort owner or do you know somebody that is if you're a resort owner would you hire a coral gardener could we start a program there if you have if you're in the dive industry would you allow us to train your divers so that they could take care of the dive sites if you're in the government will you give permission so that we can do this trained coral gardeners can do it not try to block us can you help us can we work together and can the government finally start funding this because it's the foundation of the economy can the government funders for the areas without tourism so we have villages with coral gardens as well and would you spend a holiday there would you enjoy staying there and going and seeing the coral gardens and and and be excited and and support that because that alone would would be powerful so in order to save the planet we save the reefs in order to save the reefs we need the coral gardening so this is what I leave with you with today coral gardening is the way forward thank you you

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9 thoughts on “Coral Gardening: Frontline in the Battle Against Climate Change | Dr Austin Bowden-Kerby | TEDxSuva

  1. This is a great talk to show to hotel / resort conferences or directly to resort managers as motivation to start coral gardening programs. Have you returned to Micronesia? I work in Palau and will spread the word!

  2. Hallo Austin
    I am very interested in becoming a coral gardener,teacher ,etc… I am a diver, and a long distant Swimer on the ocean ,the ocean is my temple,my healing room and will love very much to help heal it and we need a campaign to stop radiation from electric companies as well
    So please take me on board my contact number is 305 842 0152 .Blessings ğŸ™ğŸŒž

  3. since i was born the eart was in "crses" Stop crises mongering. What about the ww2 and the Iraqui war. All those bombs cause heat release and crises. Make them stop.

  4. Hello Austin, I am currently studying Marine Science in Suva, Fiji. I have been doing a lot of research here. I was wondering if there was any way you could contact me as I am suppper interested in coral farming. I have a resort on Mana Island that would support me and I could regrow the reef here. Please contact me with any information you can provide on how to start.

  5. Hello Austin, I saw your ted talk on coral gardening and have become totally inspired! I had already planned to build a world cruising catamaran, but my goals have changed from cruising to saving and rebuilding thanks to you. What I would like to do, with the proper guidance, is custom build my boat to accommodate mobile coral gardening. My dream is to cruise the world's oceans planting coral reefs and educating locals on how to do the same. What I lack is the knowledge and training needed to grow coral. How can I get involved with your organization to help save our oceans?

  6.    Please spread this link!  A group of NGOs is now forming to work with the corals to deal with the massive bleaching which has now spread to the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kiribati, Samoa, Hawaii and many Pacific Islands.    Vinaka!

  7. Thank you Austin for sharing this incredibly important message to us in the region and now the world! Yes to coral gardening.

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