The research we do at SORCE directly impacts the conservation work that we do. We also ensure that we keep up to date with scientific advancements so as to ensure our projects are as effective as possible. Based on the research to date we have developed several key conservation initiatives, with several more still being planned.
Coral Reef Restoration
There are 798 species of coral worldwide, and 76% are found in the Coral Triangle. Over 100 million people benefit directly from the reefs in the Coral Triangle, getting most of their annual protein from reefs and fish supported by those reefs. Additionally, coral reefs act as a break for waves, protecting local coastal communities from erosion, floods, and storm damage. This leads to increased physical safety, but also increased economic stability. Coral reefs also act as a protected habitat which then support other marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, over 50% of coral reefs worldwide are threatened due to a variety of factors including over-fishing, trophic cascades, water temperature changes, and pollution. SORCE is dedicated to ensuring coral reef survival through active research and restoration.
We are working with local communities to develop more sustainable and environmentally friendly fishing methods. We also work with the local governmental and provide ecological planning to development projects as well as actively restore coral reef environments. This is to ensure we get the most out of every project we do. The main aims of the Coral Reef Restoration project are:
- To research, restore, conserve and protect coral reef ecosystems, particularly coral species listed as endangered on the IUCN redlist.
- To research biotic and abiotic factors affecting coral reef environments and push for a resolution.
- To collect scientific data in order monitor the progress of activities and to aid with the development of a long term conservation plan.
- To educate international volunteers and local communities about coral reef environments and provide a framework in which they can achieve a level of understanding as laid out in the SARCE framework.
In order to achieve the objectives of the Coral Reef Restoration project we train and encourage the engagement of both staff and volunteers in project activities. These include but are not limited to:
- Hard coral monitoring
- Hard coral collection
- Coral propagation techniques
- Coral nursery maintenance
- Crown of thorn removal
- Hard coral relocation
- Aquarium maintenance
- Artificial reef construction
One of our key focuses within this project is to maintain and improve levels of biodiversity within the reef ecosystems in which we work. Community biodiversity has long been known to be positively correlated with an ecosystem’s resistance and resilience to environmental stochasticity. This means that the complex array of creatures and interlocking food chains increases an entire ecosystem’s ability to adapt to changes in the environment. Climate change is recognized as a major threat facing coral reefs by NOAA. Therefore it is essential to ensure ecological communities have maximum biodiversity in order to give these fragile ecosystems the best possible chance to adapt to climate change and other anthropogenic stressors.
Turtles have been in the ocean for over 100 million years and there are currently seven species of marine turtles worldwide. Sadly anthropogenic activity such as coastal zone development, poaching, bycatch and climate change are all having negative impacts upon sea turtles. SORCE is fortunate to have nesting green turtles and hawksbills on the island who are listed as endangered and critically endangered by the IUCN redlist.
SORCE takes an active approach to anti-poaching by ensuring that staff and volunteers are involved in the following activities:
- Anti – poaching patrol
- Hatchery maintenance
- Egg collection
- Egg relocation
- Hatchling release
- Turtle biology and conservation classes
Large Marine Animal Surveying
SORCE is concerned about the environment as a whole. A method of looking at the degradation of an ecosystem is to look higher up the food chain. Large animals are generally more prone to harvesting than smaller animals due to a reduced reproductive value and lower carrying capacity in the environment. We conduct a regular survey of large marine creatures such as manta rays, whale sharks, reef sharks, turtles, tuna and dolphins. We use the results of these surveys to infer the health of the ecosystem.
Mangroves are vital to the survival of reef ecosystems. They form a crucial link between terrestrial and marine ecosystems and provide huge benefits to both. Many marine species depend on mangroves to provide ideal nursing grounds. The shallower waters and long, complex water-based root systems of the plants provide the perfect environment for the juveniles of these species as well as plenty of shelter from predators.
Mangroves also serve as a filtration system, preventing upstream and terrestrial sediments from being washed down into the coral reef ecosystems where many of the species would be killed as a result.
However the benefits of these mangroves are often lost on local communities and vast areas of mangrove are damaged or destroyed by the collection of their wood.
At SORCE we recognise the threat that this poses to the marine ecosystems in which we work. As a result one of our projects focuses on the restoration and replanting of the mangrove habitats. We are also working on negotiations and the identification of alternative sources of fuel with local communities to prevent future damage.