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Coral Gardeners | Restoring Coral Reefs in Tahiti!

Coral Gardeners | Restoring Coral Reefs in Tahiti!

2nd June 2021
By: Olivia - F&F

In the magnificent waters of French Polynesia, a young group of ocean-lovers are on a mission to plant one million corals worldwide by 2025! 

Titouan Bernicot and his team of surfers, free divers, and fishermen — the Coral Gardeners — are on the path to becoming the largest and most advanced reef restoration program in the world. Their dedication to reef restoration, education and technological innovation has sparked global attention and attracted several high-profile ambassadors. 

This year, the Coral Gardeners are celebrating their four-year anniversary! Let’s take a dive into the origins of this reef-building initiative and how you can support their amazing work!

Who are the Coral Gardeners?Who are the Coral Gardeners?

Who Are The Coral Gardeners?

At the age of 16, Titouan Bernicot realised that the coral reefs surrounding his home were dying. On the remote island of Mo'orea, Titouan grew up working on a pearl farm with his mother and father. He was, and is — to this day — completely connected to the sea. 

Concerned for the reef, Titouan came into contact with a marine biologist on the island. Together, they took coral cuttings, ‘replanted’ them, and watched them grow — a regenerative process called fa'a'apu’

Titouan fell in love with the process, and so, Coral Gardeners was born! The initiative rapidly grew from a few volunteers to a full team of scientists, engineers, divers and expert communicators.

What Do the Coral Gardeners Do?What Do the Coral Gardeners Do?

What Do The Coral Gardeners Do?

Titouan and his team collect “super corals”, which are coral species that are naturally resilient to extreme conditions brought upon by marine heatwaves and ocean acidification. 

The Coral Gardeners seek out damaged areas to be restored, then they collect super coral fragments and place them onto coral nurseries until they're mature enough to be transplanted back onto the reef. Once transplanted, the team monitors the area to make sure that the corals are growing and the fish are re-populating the area.

So far, the Coral Gardeners have planted 15,000 corals. Upon reaching their four-year anniversary, the Coral Gardeners have unveiled an ambitious goal: to plant one million corals worldwide by 2025!

What Is Coral Reef Bleaching?What Is Coral Reef Bleaching?

What Is Coral Reef Bleaching?

Corals are extremely sensitive to the environments that they live in. 

When corals are exposed to environmental stressors like marine heatwaves, the colourful, microscopic algae that lives within the coral is expelled — giving the coral a faded, bleached appearance. If the temperature doesn’t go back to normal, the coral will eventually die. Sadly, it can take decades for coral reefs to recover from a single bleaching event.

Severe heat stress isn’t the only threat to our colourful coral reefs. The ocean absorbs around 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which directly impacts corals through ocean acidification. As the ocean becomes more acidic, it becomes more difficult for corals to build their calcium carbonate skeleton.

Climate Change Coral Reefs & TourismClimate Change Coral Reefs & Tourism

Climate Change, Coral Reefs & Tourism

Climate change directly impacts the frequency and intensity of marine heatwaves and the rising acidity of the ocean. By 2050, it’s estimated that around half of the world’s coral reefs will be lost or severely damaged. This will affect 25% of marine life who rely on coral reefs for food and shelter! 

If the Earth’s temperature reaches 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a loss of 70-90% of the world’s coral reefs.

According to the Coral Gardeners, over 500 million people worldwide depend on coral reefs for food, income and coastal protection. They also generate approximately $375 billion in tourism. Here in Australia, around 64,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment. The $6 billion tourism industry relies on a healthy, vibrant reef for activities like snorkelling.

Super Coral AdoptionSuper Coral Adoption

How To Adopt Super Corals! 

Did you know that you can ‘adopt’ a super coral? Doing so allows the Coral Gardeners to continue their amazing work in rebuilding reefs worldwide! You can choose from a selection of 10 super coral species, give your super coral a name, and keep track of your super coral via email. Pretty cool, right? 

Your super coral could potentially survive for hundreds of years and provide food and shelter for countless marine species! It’s an amazing gift idea, too. Check out the Coral Gardeners website to see the coral adoption process, the types of coral you can adopt, and other FAQs.

Here at F&F, we love celebrating people and companies who are dedicated to making the world a better place! The Coral Gardeners are working hard to restore the world’s reefs, spread awareness of the importance of coral reefs, and create innovative technologies to fast-track progress. Let’s do everything that we can to help!

Interested in marine conservation and eco news? Check out these blogs for more inspiration!

Seaweed Forests Festival

What We Learned From Watching Seaspiracy

Endangered Hawksbill Turtle Returns To Australia

Photography: Ryan Borne

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