The Challenge: As mounting human pressures threaten coral reef biodiversity, ecological integrity and fundamental persistence into the future, focus has shifted to reef resilience, the ability to maintain key functions and processes in the face of stress. In Indonesia, as elsewhere, reef managers are looking to active restoration approaches like coral gardening, larval propagation and construction of artificial reef structures to enhance reef resilience. There is concern, however, that well-intended yet poorly informed practitioners may conduct projects that are ineffective at best and ecologically harmful at worst. Education and training are urgently needed in fundamental ecological concepts like species and genetic diversity as well as skills like identifying reef stressors, selecting an appropriate restoration site and implementing, monitoring and evaluating a restoration project from ecological and socio-economic perspectives.
Task Force Activities: Through in-person and remote support, the Task Force aims to develop an Indonesia-wide network of competent reef restoration practitioners. Initially, the group will focus on building capacity in the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS), an active restoration method that has potential for broad-scale, ecologically significant results. In the future, the Task Force will extend its focus to other restoration methods to assess the best practice in resilience-based management.
With successful installations at sites in Makassar and Bali, the MARRS method features a continuous web of “Reef Stars”—hexagonal, sand-coated steel structures to which coral fragments are attached. Reef Stars are relatively simple and cheap to construct out of widely available materials, making their fabrication possible in a basic machine shop. Their modular structure and light weight provide flexibility in designing and building artificial reef substrate that conforms to the contours of an existing reef’s topography. The MARRS method is ideally suited to reef areas dominated by rubble, where a constantly shifting substrate prevents baby corals from settling and growing naturally. When set up correctly, a web of Reef Stars can stabilize rubble and promote coral growth in a shorter period of time than would be possible through natural recovery, alone.
The practice of coral restoration has been done in several marine protected areas in Indonesia. MPAs and other formally protected areas where managers have received prior MARRS training, are initially prioritized for on-the-ground support. Through in-person site visits, Task Force members will consult with MPA managers and troubleshoot issues, where necessary, to help ensure that projects are meeting their ecological and social goals. Task Force members will follow up with regular remote contact, providing advice and motivation to managers. In addition, a general online course in reef restoration will be developed in the context of reef resilience, protection and best practices in Indonesia. The course will be open to anyone who is interested.