Case Study: A Community of Practice for Coral Reef Rehabilitation – Bali Reef Rehabilitation Network, Bali, Indonesia (on-going)

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“Restoration has become a central topic in the global discussion on how to address threats to coral reefs. In Bali, numerous private and public initiatives have been undertaken to restore coral reefs. The Bali Reef Rehabilitation Network is intended to connect practitioners for the purpose of sharing information, encouraging best practices and facilitating collaboration on restoration projects that benefit Bali’s marine environment and people.”

– Rili Djohani, Executive Director, Coral Triangle Centre

Summary

The Bali Reef Rehabilitation Network is a coalition of non-governmental organisations, government representatives, academics and marine tourism operators who are engaged in coral reef rehabilitation projects around Bali. The Network was launched in August 2019 when participants met to discuss innovations, challenges, best practices, regulations and other relevant topics. As mounting human pressures degrade and threaten coral reefs, interest has grown among governments, coastal communities and marine enthusiasts to proactively counteract these by initiating projects to restore degraded sections of reef. These well-meaning projects, however, stand to fail and even cause environmental damage if conducted without planning that takes into account ecological, financial, social and legislative factors. The Reef Rehabilitation Network was formed with the goal of sharing knowledge and information among people with diverse backgrounds and levels of experience regarding coral restoration.

While this is a very new initiative, the Network has been presented as a demonstration of a mechanism to try and address challenges of inappropriate restoration, using local peer learning network to share experience and provide peer group support. This is presented as model that may be of interest to members of the Action Group.

The issue

Case Study: Coral Reef Rehabilitation Indonesia image 2
Credit: Coral Triangle Center

Bali’s economy depends strongly on marine tourism, every year drawing thousands of divers and snorkelers to its reefs. As depressing news of climate change and the global decline of coral reefs fills traditional and social media, tourists are increasingly looking for ways to “do good” on their holiday. Coral planting and other activities related to coral reef restoration have grown in popularity recently, as tourists will pay significant sums of money for the hands-on experience. This demand, presumably combined with a genuine interest in environmental stewardship, has encouraged organisations around Bali to initiate restoration projects, many of which involve tourists in some stage of the process. Many of these projects, however, have been executed without sufficient knowledge and planning regarding the ecological, financial and social factors that contribute to successful environmental restoration. Many restoration practitioners, too, are unfamiliar with local and national laws regarding coral restoration in Indonesia.

The response

Case Study: Coral Reef Rehabilitation Indonesia image 2
Credit: Coral Triangle Center

In early August 2019, the Coral Triangle Center (CTC) convened a discussion forum as a first step toward establishing a community of practice for reef restoration around Bali. Over 40 participants representing 18 organisations attended. The meeting was intended to introduce a diverse group of participants from different sectors – non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government, marine tourism and academia – with different levels of experience in reef restoration. After a keynote talk delivered by a university affiliate experienced in restoration, each participating organisation was invited to give a five-minute overview of their restoration project. Then, participants discussed challenges related to reef rehabilitation, including:

• Project continuity and building capacity of local communities to participate in reef rehabilitation activities;
• Sources of funding and creating projects that last;
• Coral species and genetic and morphological biodiversity;
• Maintenance of coral nurseries and transplant sites;
• Monitoring and evaluation of project success;
• Coastal water pollution and waste management;
• Site and coral species suitability for reef rehabilitation;
• Unclear regulations, including need for permits;
• Regulations that were written for commercial export of corals but that, by default, apply to restoration projects; and
• Lack of knowledge leading to ecologically inappropriate restoration strategies (e.g. propagating a coral species that does not naturally grow at the depth of the restoration site).

Participants expressed an interest in future activities like touring different project sites and a working group to summarise relevant laws. Facebook and WhatsApp groups were established to encourage further interaction among participants.

Partnerships and support

A coalition of NGOs, government agencies, marine tourism businesses and academics that are actively involved in reef restoration projects around Bali are involved in the Network. CTC staff coordinated and provided funding and the venue to host the August 2019 meeting. CTC staff also set up and monitors the Facebook and WhatsApp groups. The timeframe of this project is open, as it is hoped that the community of practice will continue to persist and expand.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The WhatsApp group has 21 members and the Facebook group has 45. Members share and discuss relevant news stories, coral restoration techniques and events (e.g. coral spawning) around Bali. No further activities have been initiated since the discussion forum, though since the meeting there has been talk of organising project site visits, workshops and other activities in the future.

Challenges

One of the main challenges the Network now faces is lack of attention and time: since the initial discussion forum, enthusiasm to participate and initiate activities has waned. Some consideration is still needed as to how to energise the group, aside from initiating and participating in discussions in the Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Another challenge is language: the group involves expatriates as well as Indonesians, not all of whom are bilingual. Some expatriate participants expressed frustration at not understanding presentations in Indonesian during the discussion forum. The facilitators of the Network are considering how to strike a balance between translating everything – which is impractical– and making no effort – which may alienate non-bilingual participants – in a way that encourages both expatriates and Indonesians to participate in the Network.

Another challenge is the unclear, or in some cases lack of, policies related to coral restoration at the local, regional and national levels in Indonesia. At the discussion forum, there was talk of assembling a working group to find and summarise existing relevant laws and identify gaps.

It would be useful to learn from experiences in other countries, as reef restoration is becoming a more mainstream activity implemented by organisations and companies. Help in enabling this kind of cross-country learning experience would be beneficial.

Case Study: Coral Reef Rehabilitation Indonesia image 3
Credit: Coral Triangle Center

Key lessons learnt

People like to share about themselves, in addition to listening to others, even when they have little experience in or expertise on the topic. Inviting everyone to present on their restoration project during the discussion forum set a precedent that the group would be inclusive, no matter the level of experience.

Lead contact

Kitty Currier, Coral Triangle Center

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Fragments of Hope – Community-Led Coral Reef Restoration, Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Belize (on-going)

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

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Summary

Laughing Bird Caye National Park (LBCNP) was declared in 1994 and is one of seven protected areas making up the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site. While the land area is just 1.4 acres, the marine component of the park is 4,095 hectares. This protected area is one of the best examples of the unique type of atoll formation in the Caribbean.

LBCNP provides significant social and economic benefits to the local society. It is an important tourism resource, with over 10,000 visitors per year, given its proximity to Placencia Village just 11 miles away, and it provides sheltered snorkeling sites. In 2017, the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University valued LBCNP at almost US$5million/year (Nawaz et al., 2017). Because the site has no fishing allowed, it harbours good populations of conch, lobster and finfish, which then spill into local fishing areas.

Fragments of Hope (FOH) is a non-profit communitybased organisation that was formally established in 2013; FOH focuses on the restoration of coral reef habitats and advocacy for sustainable management of associated habitats. LBCNP was the first restoration site in Belize (2006) by FOH and is considered by most experts the best example of reef restoration in the Caribbean.

This case study is presented as it is an example of responsible restoration that has persisted. There are significant long-term conservation and economic benefits of successful coral reef restoration – for example tourism and fisheries are key industries in Belize that rely on the health of the reef. Restoration is, however, still a new and evolving strategy for retaining coral reefs into the future and so it is important to share and draw from experience.

The issue

Tourism and fisheries are key industries in Belize that rely on the health of the reef. In Belize, the shallow reefs have been valued at more than US$9 million/year in preventative storm damage alone. Over the past couple of decades, there have been significant declines in coral cover in Belize, as is the case for the whole Caribbean region – especially for the dominant and structurally important Acropora palmata or Elkhorn coral. Acroporids are keystone or foundation species in the Caribbean, branching and fast-growing, and therefore provide habitat and shelter for hundreds of other marine species, including the commercially important Spiny lobster. They thrive in shallow water, and it is the top metre of living reef that provides the most shoreline protection. This species has been affected by hurricanes, bleaching and white band disease. Because of these declines, all Caribbean acroporids (two species, one hybrid) were listed as Endangered Species in the USA in 2006 and as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List in 2008.

In 2001, Laughing Bird Caye National Park (LBCNP) was affected directly by Hurricane Iris, a category 4 hurricane, which caused massive damage to the fringing reefs in southern Belize, reducing coral cover to less than 6 per cent.

The response

The response to the decline of coral cover was active restoration through the transplantation of corals (initially acroporid corals) within LBCNP. Fragmentation is a natural form of asexual reproduction for acroporid corals and a form of natural adaptation to the high-energy environments in which they live.

Mapping of existing acroporids has been conducted in the warmest months of the year to identify naturally thermally tolerant corals. Genetic analyses are outsourced to ensure genetic diversity since the corals can sexually reproduce, and many different individuals of each species are needed to ensure self-reproducing/ sustaining restored populations. Long-term monitoring includes tracking these different individuals over time for growth and survival rates, longevity, bleaching and disease responses and evidence of sexual reproduction (spawning). Since the acroporids can reproduce via fragmentation, Fragments of Hope (FOH) began using photomosaics in 2014 to document coral cover changes on 100–200 m2 plots within LBCNP.

The restoration efforts undertaken by FOH engaged the local community, including the local fishers and tourism operators as well as staff from the Belize Fisheries Department.

Partnerships and support

There are significant long-term conservation and economic benefits of successful coral reef restoration. While the FOH team implements all the active reef restoration, the Belize Fisheries Department and the Southern Environmental Association are close partners.

The work has had several funders over the years (2006-present), primarily through short-term grants written and implemented by FOH:

  • World Wildlife Fund (2009-present);
  • The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) (2015-2019);
  • Carib-Save (2015);
  • The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) (2014-2016);
  • The Mesoamerican Reef Fund (the MAR Fund) (2018-2019);
  • The Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (2011);
  • The World Bank (2010);
  • The Protected Areas Conservation Trust (2006- 2007);
  • Private sector donations (2016-present).

FOH partners with a local licensed tour operator, Placencia Ecology Tours, and with local fishers to provide tours of local coral and mangrove ecosystems. All net profits go back into the restoration activities and contribute to the sustainability of these efforts.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

A total of 82,879 nursery grown corals have been outplanted to LBCNP.

  • Annual coral cover increases of 10–20 per cent, after initial outplanting and without adding more corals, have been documented at LBCNP, where over 1 hectare of shallow degraded reef has been replenished and persisted.
  • Multiple genotypes of each species from these nursery-grown outplanted corals have sexually reproduced each year they were monitored (2014- 2017), with 89 per cent survival of the outplanted individuals after 13 years.
  • The approach has been endorsed by the Belize Fisheries Department.
  • A manual and three-day training curriculum have been developed targeting coastal community members and actors with interests in the reef. This helps transfer the knowledge for restoration of degraded reef areas within protected areas.
  • There are now 23 in-situ coral nurseries throughout Belize.
  • Exchanges, study visits and workshops have been conducted to share experience across the Caribbean, including in Colombia and St Barth’s: In 2016, IADB funded FOH and a coral restoration workshop in partnership with the University of the West Indies in Discovery Bay Jamaica. In 2018, there was a Belize/Mexico exchange facilitated by the MAR Fund and a Belize/ Jamaica exchange funded by GEF SGP.
  • In 2016, FOH received international recognition for its work to demonstrate effective Caribbean acroporid population enhancement from the International Coral Reef Symposium, and in 2017 the Lighthouse Activity Award from the UN Secretariat for Climate Change.
  • In 2018, FOH won a Women as Agents of Change Award from GEF SGP.
  • In 2018 and 2019, FOH was invited to speak at UN Headquarters on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62) and Solutions for Implementing Gender-Responsive Climate Action.

Challenges

Consistent, long-term funding is always a challenge and, even when sourced, the amount of administrative work (financial and technical) can be time-consuming. Climate change itself continues unabated with the lack of global political initiative to reduce emissions. Challenges include unpredictable weather patterns for fieldwork; increasing severity and frequency of storm events; increasing sea temperatures leading to ever-increasing severity of coral bleaching and disease events; and illegal fishing practices that can cause imbalanced food webs important for keeping coral predators (snails, fire worms) in check. Finally, the methods needed to accurately quantify restoration results (e.g. diver-based photo mosaics, drone mapping for larger areas) are more costly than the restoration work itself, and the processing technology must be outsourced (lack of capacity in country).

Key lessons learnt

What was novel was the ability to engage all the different partners that were needed to enable success, so that everyone was able to move towards a common vision.

  • Involvement of local community and ownership of the restoration work has been very important for success and sustainability.
  • Use of the same practitioners to undertake the restoration work had a positive impact in terms of building expertise.
  • Other success factors identified include a low human population density, the protection of grazing species since 2009, the establishment of no-take zones and only undertaking out-planting outside of hurricane (and bleaching) season, between December and May.

The methods and experiences from the work undertaken by FOH have been documented and made available as pdf resources: https://fragmentsofhope.org/casestudy-manuals/

Lead contact

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator, Fisheries Department, Belize Vivian Ramnarace, Fisheries Department, Belize Lisa Carne, Fragments of Hope

Sources

Carne, L. (2011) ‘Reef Restoration at Laughing Bird Cay National Park, Belize’. Mesoamericana 15(3): 21-30. Nawaz, S., Bood, N. and Shal, V. (2017) Natural Heritage, Natural Wealth: Highlighting the Economic Benefits of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site. WWF Technical Report. http://fragmentsofhope.org/

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World Oceans Day: Mapping the Commonwealth one coral reef at a time

Celebrating World Oceans Day 2020, on 8 June, the Commonwealth Secretariat kicked off with the first Commonwealth Blue Charter webinar in its new series.

With 45% of coral reefs in Commonwealth waters and more than 90% of reefs globally predicted to be lost to climate change, NOW is the time for action. This webinar highlighted the efforts member countries and Vulcan Inc. are undertaking to map and accelerate protection and restoration of these precious ecosystems.

The event was hosted by The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, with a special address from Her Excellency Dr Farah Faizal, High Commissioner of Maldives to the UK. The event highlighted the actions and progress of three Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups:

Vulcan Inc. demonstrated the Allen Coral Atlas which is bringing together multiple datasets to develop a detailed global coral atlas. Countries can utilise this map to inform their policy decisions to protect and restore coral reefs.  Maps for Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Fiji, Jamaica, Kenya, Mozambique, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga and Tuvalu are available on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub.

During the webinar, a new short film produced by the Commonwealth Blue Charter highlighting the 10 Action Groups was premiered.

Over 200 people from 56 countries around the world participated in the webinar, which finished with a panel discussion including questions from the audience.

Panelists of the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC during the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, speaking during the webinar

Watch event highlights

Watch full event

Post-COVID recovery should lock in ocean sustainability, says Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is urging governments to ensure their countries’ post-COVID economic recoveries are environmentally sustainable and safe for the ocean.

Forty-seven of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries have a coastline while 25 are either small island developing states or ‘big ocean states’ relying heavily on the ocean for food and income.

Sustainable blue and green economies

On World Oceans Day (8 June), Secretary-General Patricia Scotland calls on countries to reform development strategies in a way that supports vibrant and sustainable blue and green economies.

She said: “The ocean is the life blood of so many Commonwealth countries and our environment should be the cornerstone as we put plans in place to recover our economies. The Commonwealth covers more than a third of coastal oceans in the world, contributing to a global ocean-based economy valued at US$3 to 6 trillion per year.

“COVID-19 impact has radically altered some of our key economic sectors and transformed the way we live, communicate and do business. While the fallout from the pandemic has had a huge impact on our blue economies, it also presents a crucial opportunity to strategise on how to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable economic practices built on climate resilience and ocean sustainability.

“The Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for global ocean action in the international landscape today. I commend the work of our member countries through the action groups and welcome the support we have received from national, regional and global partners, enabling us to mobilise together for ocean health.”

Blue Charter action groups

The Blue Charter is the Commonwealth’s commitment to work together to protect the ocean and meet global ocean commitments. Ten action groups, led by 13 champion countries, are driving the flagship initiative. More than 40 countries have signed up to one or more of these action groups, and counting.

Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups include:

  • Sustainable Aquaculture (led by Cyprus)
  • Sustainable Blue Economy (Kenya)
  • Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (Australia, Belize, Mauritius)
  • Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods (Sri Lanka)
  • Ocean Acidification (New Zealand)
  • Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji)
  • Ocean Observations (Canada)
  • Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (marine plastic pollution – United Kingdom, Vanuatu)
  • Marine Protected Areas (Seychelles)
  • Sustainable Coastal Fisheries (Kiribati)

Members of the private sector, academia and civil society – including Vulcan Inc, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Nekton Foundation and many others – are also engaged as Blue Charter partners.

Coral mapping technology to accelerate reef restoration and protection in the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Secretariat is joining forces with Vulcan Inc. to help member countries manage their ocean spaces via cutting-edge mapping technology.

Commonwealth countries are responsible for more than a third of the world’s coastal ocean, and 45 per cent of its coral reefs.

Harnessing satellite technology

The new tool will use satellite technology to create country-specific data and generate high-resolution images to help map, manage and monitor coral reefs in the Commonwealth.

Announcing the initiative on World Reef Awareness Day, 1 June, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The threats to the health of our ocean are numerous and can be perceived by governments as overwhelming, with 90 per cent of coral reefs at risk of disappearing within the next few decades as a result of climate change.

“That is why Commonwealth leaders launched the Commonwealth Blue Charter in 2018, which is a shared commitment from all 54 member countries to tackle urgent ocean issues together and by offering mutual support. Our partnership with Vulcan Inc, as well as with others in the private sector, academia and science networks, will work to translate our vision into meaningful on-the-water actions.”

Allen Coral Atlas

Building on the technology behind Vulcan’s Allen Coral Atlas – a public platform that converts data from a range of sources to generate detailed maps, images and alerts on coral reefs – a dynamic interactive coral reef map will be hosted online on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub. The information it contains will support marine ecosystem planning, management, governance and community action in member countries.

Chuck Cooper, Managing Director of Government and Community Relations at Vulcan said: “We have already lost 50 per cent of the world’s coral reefs which support the safety, well-being, and economic security of hundreds of millions of people.

The Allen Coral Atlas is helping to provide foundational data which inform critically important conservation efforts. Working with Commonwealth countries, we can change the trajectory of the coral reef crisis.”

World Oceans Day

The joint project will be unveiled with a special virtual presentation on World Oceans Day, 8 June.

This event, titled ‘Mapping the Commonwealth one coral reef at a time,’ will also feature presentations from three Blue Charter Action groups, focusing on:

  • Coral Reef Protection and Restoration
  • Ocean and Climate Change
  • Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is implemented by 10 country-driven action groups that share experiences and coordinate action to tackle ocean challenges. The presentations will highlight how the groups work together and the importance of accurate and live data to support management decisions.

Register for the event