Mon. Dec 9th, 2019

Grassroots divers known as ‘gardeners’ are trying to save coral reefs

3 min read

Diver Everton Simpson carries pieces of staghorn coral from a nursery to be planted inside the White River Fish Sanctuary Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. One day, Simpson and the other Jamaicans doing this work hope, the coral and fish will fully return and match the beauty of the water above. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Diver Everton Simpson carries pieces of staghorn coral from a nursery to be planted inside the White River Fish Sanctuary (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A small group of volunteers are mounting their own attempt to reverse the effects of climate change.

They call themselves ‘coral gardeners’ and are trying to reverse the effects of global warming on Jamaica’s coral reefs.

One such diver is 68-year-old Everton Simpson who has been taking part in the grassroots campaign for the last two years.

He engages in painstaking work designed to help the coral grow back over time. That might include using fishing lines to lash clusters of staghorn coral to rocky outcroppings in order to allow the coral’s limestone skeleton grow and bind itself to the rock.

As documented in a fascinating photo essay in the Guardian , even fast-growing coral is only able to grow a few inches a year.

Diver Everton Simpson grabs a handful of staghorn, harvested from a coral nursery, to be planted inside the the White River Fish Sanctuary Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. When each stub grows to about the size of a human hand, Simpson collects them in his crate to individually

Each stub of staghorn coral grows to about the size of a human hand (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Diver Everton Simpson plants staghorn harvested from a coral nursery inside the the White River Fish Sanctuary Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Simpson uses bits of fishing line to tie clusters of staghorn coral onto rocky outcroppings, a temporary binding until the coral's limestone skeleton grows and fixes itself onto the rock. The goal is to jumpstart the natural growth of a coral reef. And so far, it's working. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Bits of fishing line tie clusters of staghorn coral onto rocky outcroppings (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Simpson and others are facing an uphill struggle. Jamaica lost 85% of its coral reefs through 1980s and 90s but now the coral gardeners are doing their part to try and restore the natural beauty.

‘The coral are coming back, the fish are coming back,’ said Stuart Sandin, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

‘It’s probably some of the most vibrant coral reefs we’ve seen in Jamaica since the 1970s,’ he told the Guardian. ‘When you give nature a chance, she can repair herself. It’s not too late.’

Everton Simpson, right, sits on a boat in-between dives on the White River Fish Sanctuary with Mark Lobban, left, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. More than a dozen grassroots-run fish sanctuaries and coral nurseries have sprung up on the island in the past decade. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Everton sits on a boat in-between dives (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

MORE: Coral reefs are being repaired with superglue and it’s actually working

Over in Thailand, workers are resorting to super glue in order to try and fix the damage to the coral reefs.

World-famous Maya Bay on the Phi Phi Island in Thailand was closed to the public after its beautiful coral reefs were destroyed by boats and its wildlife was trampled on. Since the closure, experts and volunteers have been painstakingly working to return the bay to its former glory .

They have taken parts of dead reefs and placed them back on rocks to grow again. The coral is initially attached to a new rock with superglue but after a week it is stable enough to thrive on its own and the glue is dissolved.

Reefs around the world are suffering from a process known as coral bleaching – where symbiotic algae known as zooxanthellae is stripped from the coral by the increasing temperatures.

Diver Everton Simpson plants staghorn coral harvested from a coral nursery inside the the White River Fish Sanctuary Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The energetic 68-year-old has reinvented himself several times, but always made a living from the ocean. Once a spear fisherman and later a scuba-diving instructor, Simpson started working as a

Everton plants staghorn coral harvested from a coral nursery (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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The zooxanthellae provide the coral with its source of food as well as give it its distinctive colours.

When they die, it looks like the coral has been bleached white. And even though some studies show coral can adapt to warmer temperatures, scientists are nevertheless concerned about the future of Earth’s coral reefs.

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