A coral nursery has been installed off the coast of Spain to restore an endangered coral species in the Mediterranean Sea.
The installation was conducted as part of nonprofit organization Coral Guardian’s SOS Corales project, in collaboration with the Spanish NGO Equilibrio Marino, to regenerate coral ecosystems present in the Punta de la Mona area in the south of Spain.
Specifically, a team led by biologist Marina Palacios has taken an important step in the research and restoration of chandelier coral. SOS Corales is not only working to repopulate this species in its habitat, but has also created a coral nursery to retrieve the most damaged specimens, which until now seemed impossible.
The project is taking place in the special conservation area (SAC) of the cliffs and seabed of Punta de la Mona, off the coast of Granada. Several types of cold-water corals can be found here, including the candlestick coral (Dendrophyllia ramea), an endangered species about which little was known until now.
On site, Equilibrio Marino found a very damaged ecosystem, with hundreds of broken corals mainly due to the high concentration of abandoned fishing gear in the area. These nets and lines particularly affect the chandelier coral, which gets entangled in it. When the coral breaks, the fragment falls to the bottom, and opportunistic organisms (epibionts) cover it so that its polyps cannot feed, and it gradually dies.
The SOS Corales project includes various actions to facilitate the recovery of the coral ecosystem in the Punta de la Mona area. First, a seabed cleanup is carried out to remove fishing gear and other debris from the coasts, following specific protocols. Then the coral colonies are freed from the fishing gear, cleaned, and the dead parts, sediment and epibionts are removed. Broken colonies that are in good condition are transplanted directly into the wild, and corals in poorer condition are transplanted onto nurseries.
For more info, check out the SOS Corales project website.
(Featured image credit: Javier Sánchez)