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What to do when a storm destroys a reef? CORAL GARDEN!

Cyclones, aka Hurricanes or Typhoons, hit Fiji with some regularity.  They can be mild or ferocious, short in duration or long.  Cyclone Tomas, which hit Taveuni, Qamea and Matangi this past April, was ferocious and long. 

 

Roberta Davis of Makaira Resort described Tomas as “terrifying.”  Shut-up in a small concrete bunker, Roberta feared for her life when the protective concrete started to shake.  The winds were that bad.  It was also noisy:  “like a freight train that came bearing down on us.”

 

Roberta went snorkeling not long after the waters calmed down to assess the damage.  From shore to 100 meters out, the reef was, well, much as you would expect it.  Staghorn coral colonies lay shattered, their arms broken and lying as rubble on the sea floor.  The damage, though, was inconsistent.  Some patches survived mostly unscathed. It really depended upon the depth and the contour of the reef. At a geographical point in the reef, a little to the right and a good ways out, Roberta found that her favorite thing had survived:  a large rose bubble tip anemone colony with attending melanopus clownfish (cinnamon clownfish).  It was going to be O.K.  See the following clip to get a sense of the anemone colony:

 

http://www.naturefootage.com/video_clips/LF07_038

 

I spoke with Roberta after the storm about the damage.  She knew from Cyclone Ami that coral reefs recover slowly – but they do recover – just in time for the next storm.  I told her that she could speed-up the process if she was willing to coral garden. 

 

“Coral garden?  What’s that?”

 

Oh Roberta: my favorite question!  Thank you for asking (total set-up) and here are my favorite answers!

  

The above video taken by BBC film crew at Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby's in Moturiki.

 

And more from Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby (FijiGuide member):

 

 

Views: 101

Comment by Austin Bowden-Kerby on May 11, 2011 at 1:51am

The corals will return to damaged reefs eventually, if the water is clean....but when most are wiped out it can take as long as 50 years.  A little coral planting and protecting the corals from their predators can go a long way in helping reefs rebound.  Coral larvae are atttracted to living corals and they settle better if they have a signal to do so. 

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