I've been in communication with Roberta Davis up at Makaira (Taveuni) these past few months, keeping track of her coral gardening efforts post Cyclone Tomas. She and a few local youth have really gotten into the spirit: replanting detached staghorn acropora fragments on to patches of reef scoured clean by the waves. They're achieving great success, but they've noticed the following:
(1) The parts of the reef they haven't touched are still bare. No baby coral colonies have, since the last spawn, attached themselves. However, there are baby coral colonies growing on the parts of the reef where they have coral gardened. Is this a phenomenon you too have experienced?
(2) There is a large infestation of crown of thorn starfish right now. Roberta and crew go out every other day to collect and destroy the starfish. So far their efforts have saved the reef in front of Makaira - but the reef in the next cove is overrun with the critters and is close to dead. Is this infestation localized to Taveuni (due to the nutrients released into the water by Cyclone Tomas?) or is it more widespread? Are there any establishments in Fiji (i.e. Makogai) that sell or distribute the triton trumpet?
I'm a tremendous fan of your work along the Coral Coast! It's truly amazing what you have accomplished!
Thank you very much for your response! I forwarded your comments on to Roberta Davis at Makaira/Taveuni.
I've been pondering your comments and Roberta's insights and I think I know why coral larvae only grow where there are other corals. In their planktonic stage, coral larvae have no way of knowing if they are in shallow or deep water or if the conditions are right for growth. There has to be a trigger that lets them know when to swim down and attach. The trigger, through your observations, is obviously the presence of other corals.
I'm hypothesizing, but maybe the signal to the coral polyp is strongest at night, when the coral colonies release their protective chemical-laden slime. Somewhere in that cocktail is the answer (or maybe the colonies release the chemical constantly?).
Thanks again; I truly appreciate it! I'll be writing a blog on this subject and COTS for FijiGuide - and would like very much for you to participate.
Cheers (for now),
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