Soft Corals and Coral Farming: an introduction in the Tropical Ecodiver course 2015
This year the course on corals identification and coral reefs monitoring approaches held from 26th of October to 2nd of November in the wonderful location of Bangka Island (North Sulawesi, Indonesia) surrounded by the huge biodiversity of Celebes Sea got for the first time a specific class on soft corals.
These organisms are very interesting for monitoring the healthy status of a coral reef because they are pioneer organisms in the secondary colonization of destroyed and degraded reefs. That’s happened thanks to their high growth rate and high resistance to adverse condition.
The activities with the students were conducted in three steps. After an introduction on soft corals biology and ecology, some organisms belonging to the most common taxonomic families were collected and maintained in aquaria for some days to see the main morphological characteristics of the different genera and, at the end, polyp morphology was analyzed under a stereomicroscope and sclerites (specie-specific calcium carbonate structure made by these organisms) was extracted and analyzed under an optical microscope for a better classification.
Soft Corals are very interesting not only for their importance in coral reefs monitoring, but also for their value on reef restoration: the high growth rate and the easy way to grow them on specific submerged farms can provide organisms that can be carried and implanted on impacted reefs.
Thinking about conservation and awareness of people on environmental sustainability is also interesting that these organisms are on demand in the aquarium trade: growing them in specific sites could decrease wild harvest and could give to local economies an alternative to reef destructive practices, like bomb and poison fishing.
In the end we would like to thank the Coral Eye management, that gave us the opportunity to use the facilities of this Indonesian outpost on reef research, for the course, like the wet laboratory (with nine 15l tanks and sea flowing water) and the dry lab (where we made use of microscopes, stereomicroscopes, stuff and reagents).
Reef Check Italia onlus