Reefscapers reef regeneration Maldives coral propagation

Monthly report updates from our Reefscapers coral biologists at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru.

You may also be interested in:

  • Our previous Reefscapers Diaries from 2016 onwards (including our extensive 2016 coral bleaching report).
  • The ground-breaking lab work and unique photography (Oct-Nov 2021) in our Coral Spawning Reports.
  • Sponsoring your very own coral frame as part of our Reefscapers coral propagation and reef regeneration projects;
  • Viewing the latest photographs of your coral frame (uploaded every 6 months) – see our Coral Frame Collection.

Reefscapers Diary March 2022

Reefscapers coral reef restoration Maldives

Harvesting corals and collecting ‘fragments of opportunity’ for transplanting onto our coral frames

Coral Propagation – Monthly Progress

At Landaa during March, we used almost 2000 coral fragments to transplant a total of 31 new coral frames (18 guest-sponsored, 11 Resort-sponsored, plus two online orders). In addition, we monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) more than 400 coral frames at various sites around Landaa Giraavaru.
We also received a most generous donation that will enable us to make 54 new medium/large frames over the coming months, that will add an impressive 5600 coral fragments onto the reef.

Reefscapers artificial reef relocation Moon site

Reef relocation – Moon site (Landaa)

Reefscapers coral frame relocation artificial reefs

Relocating our coral frames (Landaa)

NOAA Coral Bleaching Watch Maldives

As we enter the seasonally warmer part of the year here in the Maldives (January to April), it is important to keep track of NOAA’s coral bleaching watch guidelines, as the sea surface temperatures are expected to rise slowly through to the end of May.

Over the next few weeks, the NOAA Coral Bleaching Alert for the Maldives will move from ‘Watch’ (and ‘Warning’) to ‘Alert Level 1’, as the sea surface temperatures threaten to rise above 30°C during May. We will start our CoralWatch monitoring during the last week of April.

Coral bleaching alert status Maldives

At Kuda Huraa during March, we transplanted nine new coral frames, and recycled two existing frames, using a total of 411 coral fragments from nine different species (mainly Acropora, plus Montipora foliosa).

During the last week of March, we helped with the major rescue of thousands of coral colonies from the large industrial development project at Gulhi Falhu (by the Maldives government). The colonies were divided up as follows:

  • transplanted to our existing frames on the House Reef,
  • wedged into suitable locations directly onto the natural reef,
  • stockpiled on the reef for future transplantation.
  • Water Villas (WV) – After the mass frame relocation in January, the 148 remaining frames are recovering and generally healthy overall. We performed some repairs, and the site is now fully mapped, tagged and monitored.
  • Sea Star (SS) – The 249 frames recently relocated here exhibit good health, but fish predation continues to be a minor threat. Monitoring, retransplanting, and remapping activities were continued, and all the frames are now fully mapped and monitored. Some frames were retransplanted with ‘fragments of opportunity’ (broken pieces that fall from recently relocated frames).
  • House Reef (HR) – the new Gulhi Falhu coral colonies will provide a massive boost in genetic diversity to our reef ecosystem around the island. Within minutes of replenishing an old frame with fresh corals, dozens of fish would arrive… a miraculous sight to behold!
  • Channel (CH) – further retransplanting and monitoring; Montipora digitata and Porites cylindrica seem less healthy at this site, perhaps due to the seasonally slow water current (causing increased temperatures and some breakouts of algae). The colonies that survived the last yearly bleaching event will continue to be monitored during the following months.
  • Blue Hole (BH) – coral health continues to be exceptionally good. Three additional flat frames were placed here this month and transplanted with some of the new Gulhi Falhu coral colonies. We will monitor these closely for health and possible spawning events.
Reefscapers coral rescue reef repair

Coral rescue and reef repair (Kuda Huraa)

Coral bleaching monthly sea temperatures

Sea temperatures recorded at our ‘Starfish’ site (Kuda Huraa)

Coral Spawning Monitoring

At Kuda Huraa this month, coral eggs were recorded in 28 frames (initially transplanted between January 2018 and December 2019) located at the Water villas (0.5m depth) and Starfish (1.5m depth) sites. Egg presence was recorded in six Acropora species (no eggs in Acropora humilis):

  • Acropora millepora: many colonies with white eggs.
  • Acropora digitifera: many colonies with eggs, which started pigmenting during late March.
  • Acropora nasuta: all colonies found with eggs, that started pigmenting during late March.
  • Acropora tenuis: a few colonies with immature pale eggs.
  • Acropora gemmifera: a few colonies with immature pale eggs.
  • Acropora monticulosa: one colony with pigmented eggs.

Coral Spawning Diary

  • 8 March onwards – egg maturity was observed in some colonies.
  • 18 March – full moon.
  • 16-22 March – we carried out night surveys. Monitored colonies were revisited to follow egg development, and on each visit we took photos and recorded: date, time, species, tag number. None of our monitored colonies spawned.
  • 18-22 March (around 20:00-22:00h MV time) – we observed ‘coral slick’ (pinkish eggs) floating on the ocean surface at two locations around the island (the sunrise and northern parts) probably from Montipora digitata.
  • For more indepth reporting and photos, please see our dedicated report on Spawning Research 2022.

Coral Plates in Aquarium One (plates KH01, KH02, KH05) and Aquarium Two (plates KH03, KH04, KH06)

• KH01 (Galaxea fascicularis; Acropora species) – new fragments were added to replace several mortalities.
• KH02 (G. fascicularis) – fragments continue to thrive. The largest fragments were removed to make a mini frame that was located at the Water Villas.
• KH03 (Acropora species) – many fragments were lost this month, so the plate will be retransplanted.
• KH04 (Acropora species, mushroom coral) – fragments continue to be healthy. The small mushroom corals have been removed by the resident crabs.
• KH05 (G.fascicularis) – fragments present steady health. The plate continues to accumulate cyanobacteria, which is regularly removed.
• KH06 (G.fascicularis) – fragments continue to be healthy and keep on fusing and growing.

Reefscapers coral frame monitoring Water Villas

Coral frame monitoring (Water Villas site, Kuda Huraa)

Reefscapers Diary February 2022

Reefscapers reef regeneration Maldives coral propagation

Reef restoration extends the natural habitat for a wide variety of marine species

Coral Propagation – Monthly Progress

At Kuda Huraa during February, we transplanted eight new coral frames plus one recycled frame, using a total of 448 coral fragments (from eight different coral species).

  • Water Villas (WV) – After the mass frame relocation carried out during January, the 148 remaining frames are either healthy or recovering well from the sand damage. During February, we monitored (repaired, photographed) 39 frames at this site.
    Immature white eggs were spotted in some coral colonies (Acropora hyacinthus, A. digitifera), and we are monitoring for a possible spawning event in the coming weeks.
  • Sea Star (SS) – The 249 frames recently relocated next to the Starfish are in good health, but fish predation continues to be a threat. Monitoring, re-transplanting and remapping activities will be resumed.
  • House Reef (HR) – This month’s nine new coral frames were deployed at this site; we also removed several Crown of Thorns starfish (COTs).
  • Channel (CH) & Blue Hole (BH) – some repair work and monitoring.

At Landaa during February, we transplanted a total of 2250 harvested coral fragments on 41 new coral frames (including a very generous guest donation for 16 frames).

Reefscapers artificial reef sand damage

Frame relocated to firmer substrate due to sand damage (lower bar)

Reefscapers coral propagation and monitoring House Reef

Newly positioned frame provides shelter for reef fish (House Reef)

Reefscapers heart-shaped frame Maldives

Heart-shaped frames for Valentine’s Day

Reefscapers coral health inspection

Coral frame monitoring and health inspection

NOAA Coral Bleaching Watch Maldives

As we enter the seasonally warmer part of the year here in the Maldives (January to April), it is important to keep track of NOAA’s coral bleaching watch guidelines, as the sea surface temperatures are expected to rise slowly through to the end of May.

During the upcoming weeks, we will move from ‘No Stress’ to ‘Watch’, followed by a Coral Bleaching ‘Warning’ status. We continue to monitor our coral frames and the natural reefs around the islands for signs of coral paling and bleaching.

NOAA coral bleaching watch Maldives

Coral Plates in Aquarium One (plates KH01, KH02, KH05) and Aquarium Two (plates KH03, KH04, KH06)

• KH01 (Galaxea fascicularis; Acropora species) – some paling and mortality, due to water flow issues.
• KH02 (G. fascicularis) – the fragments continue to thrive. The plate was rotated twice this month.
• KH03 (Acropora species) – some paling and mortality, due to water flow issues.
• KH04 (Acropora species, mushroom coral) – the fragments continue to be healthy, although the small mushroom corals have been moved again by the resident crabs.
• KH05 (G.fascicularis) – fragments continue to be healthy. We regularly clean accumulating cyanobacteria (and small sponges).
• KH06 (G.fascicularis) – fragments continue to be healthy.

Reefscapers Diary January 2022

Reefscapers reef regeneration Maldives coral propagation

Our artificial reefs provide habitats for myriads of fish and invertebrates, increasing marine biodiversity

Coral Propagation – Monthly Progress

At Landaa during January, we transplanted 20 new coral frames (11 Resort-sponsored, nine guest-sponsored) and monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) 266 existing frames. We used 1164 individual coral fragments for our new frames, plus 2130 fragments for repairs and recycling work, totalling 3294 fragments for the month.

  • Yin Yang site – we relocated all 31 frames to the Moon site, repairing and retransplanting as we went along.
  • Moon site – retagged, repaired and recycled 37 old frames.
  • Bissie’s Reef on the Coral Trail – repaired and recycled all 15 coral frames (at 10-12m depth).

At Kuda Huraa during January, we transplanted two new frames and three recycled frames, using a total of 270 coral fragments harvested from seven different Acropora species.
We also relocated 249 coral frames from the Water Villas site to the House Reef and monitored/mapped them at the new location.

  • Water Villas (WV) – from 8 to 10 January, we organised a mass frame relocation operation due to the increasing problem of the seasonally shifting sands. Due to the maturity, health, and weight of the coral frames, we required five to seven people for each session.
    Thanks to all our Resort colleagues who volunteered from every department.
    The frames were raised with buoyant canisters, transported in the whaler (four to 12 frames per trip) and relocated close to the Sea Star site. We worked for a total of 17 hours to relocate 249 fully grown coral frames of different shapes and sizes.
    Currently, 148 healthy frames remain at the Water Villas site, and are regularly monitored for health and encroaching sand.
  • Sea Star (SS) – the newly relocated frames were arranged, mapped, and monitored, and are in very good health overall, thanks to our rapid and efficient relocation work.
    The broken fragments were carefully collected, used to retransplant the starfish shape.
  • House Reef (HR) – the five new frames were deployed here, although we have started to observe some mortality due to the seasonally shifting sands.
  • Channel (CH) – the frame layout was simplified at the end of 2021, streamlining our mapping and monitoring work, and enhancing the snorkelling experience for Resort guests.
  • Blue Hole (BH) – frames remain healthy, and we continue to remove any accumulated marine debris that settles at this deep site.
Reefscapers reef rescue from shifting sands
Reefscapers artificial reef relocation & rescue
Reefscapers artificial reef relocation & rescue
Reefscapers reef rescue from shifting sands

Coral Spawning Database

Our new coral spawning database was created and shared among the team, to document our observations of gametes throughout the year. We will use standardised methods to collect observational information, including consistent categorisation of egg colouration (white, pale, pigmented).
We have also started work on a research paper and plan to submit for publication later in the year (after the March/April spawning event).

During January at Landaa, we observed white eggs in three species of both wild and frame colonies (A. nasuta, A. digitifera, A. millepora) and one frame colony with pigmented A. valida eggs.

  • 22 January – white eggs in Acropora digitifera on a Water Villas frame at Kuda Huraa.
  • 27 January – white eggs in Acropora nasuta (frame KH2444) and A. digitifera (KH2555), Kuda Huraa.

Coral Bleaching Watch

As we enter the seasonally warmer part of the year here in the Maldives (January to April), it is important to keep track of NOAA’s coral bleaching watch guidelines.

We are currently at ‘No Stress’ status, moving to ‘Coral Bleach Watch’ in the upcoming weeks.

We will regularly review the NOAA forecasts, and monitor our coral frames and the natural reefs for any signs of coral paling and possible bleaching.

Coral bleaching Maldives NOAA 2022

Coral Plates in Aquarium One (plates KH01, KH02, KH05) and Aquarium Two (plates KH03, KH04, KH06)

• KH01 (Galaxea fascicularis; Acropora species) – since September, the fragments continue to grow. New fragments were added due to removal by resident crabs.
• KH02 (G. fascicularis) – most fragments are healthy and growing. The plate was rotated twice this month.
• KH03 (Acropora species, replenished Oct-Dec 2021) – fragments continue to grow apically, and are encrusting well.
• KH04 (Acropora species, mushroom coral; replenished Oct-Nov 2021) – overall healthy, with increased growth.
• KH05 (G.fascicularis) – steady health; cyanobacterial growth is regularly removed.
• KH06 (G.fascicularis) – healthy, fusing and growing.

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