Planting corals, an important contribution to the life of the planet
BY MERCY RAMOS, PHOTOS: COURTESY OF INTERVIEWEE
Corals are little known ecosystems, fundamental to preserving the health of life on the planet because they are considered the lungs of the oceans. They provide shelter for many species, as food, stop the impact of waves —they protect coastal strips against hurricanes and storms—, help prevent coastal erosion and absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by humans on earth.
Precisely because of the need to preserve corals for future generations, Cuba is carrying out several projects to promote these marine species, located in María la Gorda, the western end of Pinar del Río, the National Aquarium, in Havana, and Playa Coral, in Matanzas.
In this regard, CubaPLUS Magazine held a meeting with diver Luis Muiño, who heads the latter project, which began in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“It started a year and a half ago primarily for restoration of the reefs of the coral reef barrier. Planting is a part, the newest part, of the plan, which includes cleaning the barrier, protection and planting,” explained the specialist.
“In principle, we began to research on the internet and we took on the task of starting to cultivate corals, which consists of collecting fragments, in this case of the Acroporacervicornis which is in great danger of extinction, especially due to mistreatment by fishermen,” he said.
“The coral fragments that break off, mainly due to cold fronts and major weather events such as hurricanes and climate change, are collected and taken to the nursery, where they are ‘planted’ in various ways (table and tree). There they begin to grow and parts of these fragments are separated and inserted back into the substrate in the area of the barrier where they are most affected and grow again,” he said.
For this diver, a fierce nature lover, the work that needs doing to see the fruits of his efforts does not daunt him: “It is a long process whose results can be seen from between six months and a year. But it is worth it,” he said.
Later he expressed gratitude for the support given by the authorities to the work he and his team are carrying out, as well for as the advice provided by the specialists of the National Aquarium and the biologist Patricia González Díaz, Director of the Marine Research Center.
It is important to point out, he said finally, that specifically in the area where we work, part of the protected area Laguna de Maya, of the Flora y Fauna Business Group of Matanzas, the effects on the corals are caused by the indiscriminate fishing of species such as the parrot and the barber, which feed mostly on algae, contributing to the cleaning of the entire barrier. When they are eliminated, the algae proliferate and kill the coral.
People therefore need to become aware of this and avoid, or at least, decrease, fishing activities to contribute to the preservation of nature, so important for human life.
Coral reefs are key to preserving life on the planet. Without them, billions of marine species would be in danger of disappearing, millions of people would lose their most important source of food, and many economies would be greatly affected.
According to a recent report, in the last three decades, the Great Barrier Reef that stretches 2 600 kilometers along the northeast coast of Australia, a World Heritage Site since 1981, has lost 50% of its corals, while the reefs of the Caribbean region have declined by up to 80%.