Coral reefs coming back from the dead

Perceptive Travel reports that efforts to re-seed dying coral reefs are performing better than anyone dared hope. This is the best news I've had this season — I've been convinced that the reefs would all be dead before my daughter was old enough to dive them.

On land, EcoReefs look attractive but artificial, like contemporary sculpture. Nearly two years later, they're something else entirely: a hybrid of technology and organic life, like Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly. Their antler-shaped arms are covered with baby corals and sponges, more varieties than I can count. Parrotfish, Moorish idols and clownfish have set up shop beneath their limbs; two tiger cowries nestle near one's center.

One of the techniques used to jump-start growth on the EcoReefs was "coral tranplants." Chunks of loose coral were physically attached to the EcoReefs with little plastic ties. Oddly, those modules have done no better than the ones left to their own devices. No one knows why; perhaps corals, like delicate houseplants, favor a specific angle to the sun. When that orientation is lost, the polyps wallow in confusion…

In my early days as a diver I'd heard that damaged reefs would take a century to re-grow. It's mind-boggling to see how fast these corals are returning. Moore has a lot of faith in his reefs–"If we build them, they will come"–but this growth would probably exceed his wildest dreams.


(Thanks, Marilyn!)