Last year I was on Thailand tour with my German friends. One of them, Christian remembers,
[su_quote]I was on Koh tao island in 1990s. The quality of marine life was just awesome even as close as five to ten feet off the shore. They used to be very colourful inside the water and now when I see under the water, everything looks brown. Now after 25 years, when I went for snorkeling, I see a lot of dead corals and some artificials corals as well.[/su_quote]
He felt very sad after this statement and I kept on wondering about ways in which dead coral reef life could be brought back. But I should not feel sad anymore. Indian marine scientists have brought life back into coral reefs which were dead for as long as 10,000 years. Bringing back life into corals was possible using a technique called coral cuttings. It similar to grafting new rose shrubs with twigs taken from a mother plant. On the sample basis, marine scientists have restored a coral reef measuring one square km at the marine national park in the Gulf of Kutch off the Gujarat coast.
Experts have estimated using carbon dating that these corals died almost 10,000 years ago. And now only around 30% of the entire reef was found to be alive. A Reef is a mountain like structure inside the sea.
[su_quote]“This is for the first time in the world that biologists have managed to restore a reef that has been dead for thousands of years by transporting live corals from more than 2,000 km away and growing them in turbid waters,” [/su_quote]Kailash Chandra, director of ZSI said.
These sample graft corals were actually collected from the Gulf of Mannar off Tamil Nadu coast. Gulf of Munnar lies in between India and SriLanka. Coral cuttings, like rose plant twigs, can survive if transplanted in suitable environments. Since Gulf of Munnar and Gulf of Kutch share almost the same biotic and abiotic environmental factors, it was easier for the scientists to transport the corals from Tamilnadu to Gujarat.
[su_quote]“While transplanting, we had to take utmost care. The water’s salinity, pH level, the temperature, oxygen level had to be just perfect. We had to use gel ice, normally used to preserve flowers while they are exported,”[/su_quote] said Satyanarayana, the principal investigator of the project.
Corals are very tiny animals that secrete a calcium carbonate shell over their body for their own protection. These shelling of Calcium Carbonate become an ideal place for other parasites who reside on the shells of Corals. Other Marine life who also take shelter on corals as a parasite and produce shells. Thus over the time, they form a mountain-like structures underwater, called reefs.
India has four major reef systems — Andamans, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch. Coral reefs are called ‘rainforests of the sea’ because of the diversity of life they harbour. They harbour many species of fish, support tourism, and are a huge resource for the pharmaceutical industry. They are indicators of climate change and act as the first line of defence against cyclones, rapid underwater currents and tsunamis.
[su_quote] “Tonnes of sediment brought down by rivers that used to flow through the Kutch area had deposited silt on the coral bed killing them. Dead remnants of corals could be seen strewn across all the 46 islands in Kutch,”[/su_quote] said Satyanarayana.