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Saba intensifies collaboration to achieve coral restoration

Saba continues to make strides in working towards active coral reef restoration in a number of ways. Most recently, out of 70 proposals submitted to SIA, part of the Dutch Research Council in relation to applied research, Alwin Hylkema's  ReefGrazer’s proposal (on behalf of Van Hall Larenstein) for grazer restoration ranked number one. The project, a collaboration between PES, SCF, Stenapa, Stinapa, VHL University of Applied Sciences (VHL), Wageningen University and WWF will receive funding for the upcoming two years.


The researchers aim to identify novel species of native invertebrate grazers with the dual purpose of reef restoration and fisheries diversification. Coral reef grazers, such as sea urchins, whelks and king crabs are an essential part of reef ecosystems, keeping the coral reef areas healthy through consumption of most types of algae, thereby making more space for corals to grow and for new larval corals to settle. Some of these species are also edible or even considered a delicacy. The ReefGrazer project will study the feasibility to culture these species for reef restoration and fisheries.

 

In addition, the NEPP Saba Coral Restoration plan was approved by the ministry of LNV.

This coral restoration plan was written in 2023, in collaboration with Saba Conservation Foundation, University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein (VHL), Wageningen University and PES and aims to increase the health of Saba’s coral reefs, ensuring important ecosystem services such as tourism, recreation and fisheries. In this project, the SCF will culture and outplant corals, while VHL will culture and restock sea urchins.

 

The two research projects complement each other, and both help with reaching the NEPP goal to improve the health of coral reefs. Over the past decades, the health of the coral reefs around Saba has deteriorated for several reasons, including disease among sea urchins, land erosion and rise of sea water temperature due to climate change. Coral reefs provide a basis for ecosystems that feed a large variety of marine life and are therefore essential for marine biodiversity. Additionally, healthy coral reefs can act as a buffer for shorelines from storms and associated waves and currents, as they absorb the wave's energy. 


Besides active coral and reef grazers restoration through the coral restoration plan, the Public Entity also works on minimizing the impact of environmental stressors that impact coral reef health, for example with the active reforestation initiatives to reduce erosion. 


Both coral projects will facilitate a better understanding of the factors which impact the health of coral reefs and what is needed for more active reef restoration, highlighting Saba as a research island.

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