coral 248 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ben-Gurion University experts have started "planting" corals on artificial reefs off the coast of Eilat to lure divers away from fragile natural reefs that have been unintentionally damaged due to excessive underwater visits there.
The project, taking place from Monday until Friday this week, is being led by Dr. Nadav Shashar of BGU's BA program for marine biology and biotechnology in Eilat, with cooperation from Prof. Zvi Abramsky of BGU's life sciences department, Dr. Arik Diamant from the National Center for Marine Agriculture and student Omer Pollack. Teenagers are helping by diving and planting corals after school.
They say that the artificial reefs - templates composed of concrete and metal produced in attractive-looking shapes - will serve as a breeding ground for a wide variety of coral species. Called the "Tamar Reef," the underground coral planting ground will be visited by many divers looking to view the colorful animal life.
"The research challenge in establishing an artificial reef is great and occupies scientists from universities around Israel and the world," says Shashar. "It is an ecological challenge in which the researcher must plan in advance the elements of the reef's ecological system and then ensure that an independent 'society' of coral can survive and thrive. This is part of the innovative concept of preserving nature based on active effort carried out in areas whose coral has been damaged."
The planning of artificial reefs and of ways to actively preserve them also constitute an important teaching tool for understanding the ecology of coral reefs, he added.
The templates were set down on on the Red Sea bed by the National Nature and Parks Authority last April. Since then, the area has been populated by fish and invertebrates and has attracted divers. It has also captured the interest of the world press and foreign researchers.
Since it takes years for natural reefs to be settled by coral, the BGU researchers set up a coral "nursery" to grow the young creatures under optimal conditions to spur more rapid growth. These corals are now being planted according to an exact plan to turn the concrete and metal structures into active and vital reefs. Shashar said his team learned a lot about how to initiate and promote coral growth from Jewish National Fund experts in reforestation.
The project, run jointly by academia and the nature authority, is funded by the US State Department's USAID-MERC and the Whitely Foundation in the UK as part of an Israeli-Jordanian cooperative effort.