[D]uring January we transplanted 30 new frames into the lagoon at Landaa Giraavaru, meaning that we passed the 2,000 frame milestone this month! It’s an amazing achievement by the Reefscapers team and is testament to their dedication and hard work towards the coral reef propagation projects at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives. We hope that 2014 will continue to see the projects going from strength to strength, and would like to extend a massive thank you to all our coral frame sponsors – past, present and future.

You can read about the history of Reefscapers, sponsor your very own coral frame or check to see how your frame is growing.

Reefscapers - our 2000th coral frame at Landaa

31 January Latest Total : 2,008 at Landaa Giraavaru + 1,269 at Kuda Huraa = 3,277 coral frames !

Birdsnest Coral

[S]eriatopora hystrix (“birdsnest coral”) is a common species in the Indo-Pacific region but not often found here in either N.Malé or Baa Atolls. As such, we are experimenting with this species here at Kuda Huraa and attempting to grow some of the fragile coral fragments on our frames. Cable ties are not ideal for this as the fragments are easily broken, so we are also experimenting with different fixing methods (epoxy resin) in our small marine aquarium. This should provide ideal growing conditions with minimal risk from predation or mechanical damage, and enable us to more easily monitor the health and growth rate of the corals.

Sea Snails

[W]e had recently observed some coral mortality in Kuda Huraa lagoon, both on our coral frames and on the natural house reef around the island. The cause is still unknown, however, whilst frame-monitoring this month we observed large numbers of sea snails (Drupella) feeding on some of the corals. In small numbers these snails do not cause much damage, but if their numbers increase they could kill whole colonies of corals.

In an attempt to control the increasing sea snail populations, we decided to start removing them to see what impact this might have on the corals. Many of the Drupella individuals are quite small in size, so we are using tweezers to extract them from their hiding places between the coral branches. We have noticed that coral species Echinopora horrida seems to be particularly susceptible to predation from the snails, so we are looking at this species in particular when hunting for Drupella.

Drupella hiding in coral branches during the day (left) and Echinopora coral suffering from suspected Drupella predation (white & green areas are dead corals)

Left: Drupella hiding in coral branches during the day
Right: Echinopora coral species suffering from suspected Drupella predation (white & green areas are dead corals)

Mushroom and Leather Corals

[W]e have recently started some experimentation with soft corals – Sarcophyton (“Mushroom coral”) and Lobophytum (“Leather coral”) – which we eventually hope to transplant around Kuda Huraa’s ‘Island Spa’. The challenge is how to attach the soft corals to a fixed point; we have attempted this previously but with limited success. This time we are attaching the soft corals directly to rocks, which can then be transplanted back into suitable areas in the lagoon. So far we have taken whole coral specimens and different-sized fragments of both Mushroom coral and Leather coral.

To attach the soft corals to the rocks we are experimenting with two different adhesives – epoxy resin and cyanoacrylate (‘superglue’). As strange as it sounds, superglue is commonly used in the aquarium industry and is tried and tested to be stable under water and safe for marine organisms. We are using our small aquarium again to provide a controlled and safe environment to closely monitor the health and growth of the soft corals over the coming weeks.