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  • Coming up next on Jonathan Bird's Blue World, Jonathan visits an underwater farm where they

  • grow coral.

  • Hi, I'm Jonathan Bird and welcome to my world!

  • Coral reefs are incredibly diverse marine habitats that are important to the health

  • of tropical ocean ecosystems.

  • Unfortunately, all over the world, coral reefs are being threatened.

  • Coral is very sensitive to temperature, and water quality.

  • In some places, the reefs are not looking very good.

  • In the Florida keys, several species of corals, particularly staghorn coral, which grows in

  • shallow water, have been hit hard by a combination of storms, disease and predators.

  • Ken Nedimyer is doing something about it. Ken is the founder of the Coral Restoration

  • Foundation in Key Largo, and he has figured out how farm staghorn coral.

  • Cameraman Tim and I grab a flight down to Key Largo to meet Ken and learn how his coral

  • farm works.

  • We meet up with Ken on a sunny spring morning for a day of checking up on his underwater

  • crops.

  • I give him a hand putting his boat in the water.

  • Ken takes us less than a mile offshore to the secret location of his coral farm.

  • Ken: I thought it might be fun to pick up some corals, kind of show you what we do,

  • pull corals off the trees, tag them, and then bundle them, kinda the whole routine then

  • well take them out and plant them on the reef

  • I thought I was just going to observe, but clearly Ken has plans to try to get some useful

  • work out of me! In fact, he is always looking for volunteers to lend a hand.

  • We arrive on site and Ken ties up to his mooring. Next I get a briefing on what to expect underwater

  • and what I’ll be doing to help.

  • Ken’s weightbelt contains an unusual assortment of tools for a scuba diver.

  • Ken: In case we see sharks!

  • Next it’s time to suit up and hit the water!

  • The coral farm is only 25 feet deep, and it doesn’t look like any coral reef I have

  • ever seen. The coral is being grown on structures that Ken calls coral trees.

  • These grunts are already treating the coral trees like reefs!

  • Each coral tree has a bunch of small pieces of staghorn coral hanging off of it like Christmas

  • tree ornaments.

  • Over time, the corals get larger and larger, until they start to crowd each other.

  • What Ken and I are going to do, is thin out the large pieces.

  • Ken shows me the technique. Basically, he is snipping off pieces of coral with a pair

  • of wire cutters.

  • Next, it’s my turn, and it doesn’t feel right to be breaking coral. This goes against

  • everything I have ever been taught! But Ken assured me that it was OK for the coral on

  • the farm.

  • But we aren’t going to throw away these coral cuttings. Next, Ken and I are tying

  • short sections of fishing line on all the pieces I cut off.

  • Then we start hanging the cuttings on a tree. Over the next year they will grow as large

  • as the pieces they were cut from!

  • A local trumpetfish comes in to inspect our work. And a resident grouper hides under one

  • of Ken’s experiments.

  • Finally, We harvest a dozen or so large pieces of staghorn coral and head back to the boat.

  • That is a very impressive operation. There is a lot of coral growing down there and it

  • seems really happy to be growing on those little coral trees. Very neat.

  • Back on the boat, I fill a tub with water.

  • This is the coral that were going to transplant.

  • You know you let them grow out, then you cut them off, and hang more up and let them grow

  • out

  • Ken: Everything out there started withall the coral would have fit in this bucket.

  • Really?

  • Next we move the boat a few hundred yards to a reef where we will transplant the coral

  • we just harvested.

  • So this is a reef called Snapper ledge, and there’s a big ledge on it and there’s

  • lots of fish usually.

  • But there’s hardly any staghorn coral.

  • You know a lot of people ask why we roll backwards off the boat. And the answer is quite simple:

  • because if you roll forwards, youre still in the boat.

  • It’s pretty amazing. I don't think many people get to do this. I’m going to be part

  • of making a new reef!

  • Down on the bottom, Ken leads me to a barren section of reef that could definitely use

  • some staghorn coral!

  • He starts by scraping off algae and marine growth to clear a section for the newly transplanted

  • coral.

  • Next he mixes up a putty-like glob of epoxy that can cure underwater.

  • Then he presses the staghorn coral into the epoxy. In a few hours it will be stuck permanently.

  • Now it’s my turn to try the same technique with the next piece. If I don’t scrape all

  • the way down to bare rock, then the epoxy won’t stick and the coral will most likely

  • die.

  • Ken and I plant about a dozen pieces of staghorn together in an area about 4 feet across. It

  • takes about half an hour for the two of us to plant all the coral we brought down. And

  • when were done, the fish are already moving in to their new habitat.

  • This is a piece of staghorn coral that Ken planted a year ago. It has already grown over

  • the epoxy and into the reef. It’s doing well and growing quickly.

  • With our mission complete, we head back to the boat.

  • Thanks to the work of Ken Nedimyer, we now know that at least some species of coral can

  • be farmed and used to replant damaged reefs. While this technique doesn’t address the

  • threats to coral, it does provide a new method for restoring damaged reefs.

Coming up next on Jonathan Bird's Blue World, Jonathan visits an underwater farm where they

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B2 H-INT US coral ken staghorn reef boat farm

Jonathan Bird's Blue World: Coral Farming

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    Daphne Kao   posted on 2015/04/12
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