In light of declining coral health on the island, the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) is embarking on substantial research in coral reef recruitment and reproduction.
Word of this has come from Marine Biologist with the CZMU’s Marine Research Unit, Angelique Brathwaite, who said this is in an attempt to save the island’s reefs from total annihilation.
"Right now we are looking at coral reef recruitment and reproduction, because we know little about this in Barbados. We are always a little late – we wait until there is bleaching and we go out to monitor, and determine that it is because of high temperatures.
"However, if we understood more about reproduction and settlement, and were able to give the corals a head start in terms of settlement, we might be able to actually???? encourage coral growth from that stage, rather than waiting until they are adult corals being decimated by all of these external factors," she opined.
In providing some insight into the reproduction process, Ms. Brathwaite explained that when corals reproduced, they released eggs and sperm into the water column, where fertilisation occurred.
"It forms what we call zygotes or spats, and they need to find a hard surface that they can settle on. Once they do, then they start to grow. If they do not find that surface, then they will die. And that’s one of the issues with a lot of algae – because if algae finds that surface first – which they will -they’ll settle on it and prevent corals from settling," she observed.
Giving further insight into the department’s research interests, Ms. Brathwaite noted that it covered work in coral reef transplantation, which entailed moving corals from sites where they were likely to be killed by dredging or new breakwater, to safer sites. She also cited work in coral reef diseases, as well as linkages between water quality and coral reef health.
With one of the longest coral reef monitoring programmes in the region, the Marine Biologist stated the unit continued to conduct extensive coral reef monitoring programmes to gauge the plight of our reefs.
??"Our baseline is 1982 and every five years we go and re-monitor them, which is how I am able to tell you that coral recruits are coming back and the bank reefs are still beautiful but their health is declining," she disclosed.