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From a discussion on nature-singapore about this proposal

How viable is this plan? Is it worth donating the $360?

The Straits Times, 28 Jun 05

Adopt a reef, and save the coral
By Chang Ai-Lien Science Correspondent

IN SINGAPORE'S most ambitious undersea conservation effort to date, stretches of artificial reefs that will ring the Southern Islands are being put up for adoption.

For $360, donors will get to be surrogate parents to a 70cm circular reef home - a hollow dome-shaped fibreglass structure which will be anchored to the seabed in 5m deep waters. Coated with limestone, the reef home will allow coral to easily attach itself.

If the adoption efforts are successful, about 2,000 of these reef homes will cover 20,000 sq m or one-fifth of the shallows around the handful of Southern Islands - Kusu, Lazarus, St John's and Seringat - which have been developed and linked through reclamation.

The reef project, which brings together a resort developer, conservationists, the local scientific community and now, the public, hopes to restore much of the coral life here in the decades to come.

Mrs Pamelia Lee, managing director of Southern Islands Development, which comes under the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), said: 'Since the tree-planting exercise on the island of Singapore has been so successful, why don't we do it with our reefs as well, and give people a sense of ownership of our natural underwater heritage.'

The $360 donation will cover the cost of producing the reef home and for divers to fasten them to the reef.

SDC will cover the cost of monitoring the corals and providing ground support.

Professor Chou Loke Ming, an internationally-known marine expert with the biological sciences department of the National University of Singapore, said: 'Prior to this, reef conservation was done in bits and pieces; now we have the chance to really make a difference on a large scale.' He has reason to be optimistic.

In earlier projects initiated by the Singapore Tourism Board in 2001 and continued by SDC, about 150 of the 50cm-high reef homes were planted in the cluster of Southern Islands including Lazarus and Kusu islands.

Although coral is notoriously slow-growing, some species settled in and grew up to 10cm after three years, quite an achievement considering the areas around the fibreglass structures remained barren. The structures also provided a home to baby fish, and trapped sediment, which kills coral.

The areas fringing Singapore's over 50 southern offshore islands are home to about 200 species of hard coral - a quarter of the global total, as well as 20 species of soft coral and more than 130 types of fish.

Although urbanisation has wiped out over 60 per cent of the reefs, the estimated 30 sq km left is almost as species rich as ever, said Prof Chou.

He said the Southern Islands project is proof that development and conservation do not have to be mutually exclusive, as steps can be taken to save the flora and fauna at the same time.

Bird and plant life on the islands have been saved and the use of silt screens during reclamation work protected existing corals from being smothered.

'A lot of people say our reefs are dying, but they have not been completely wiped out despite the intense use of our waters,' said Prof Chou. 'It's not a question of...creating instant reefs, but my feeling is it's not too late to save them.'

For more information on sponsoring a reef home, call Mr Howard Shaw, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council on 6337-6062 or 9636-0400.

From a discussion on nature-singapore about this proposal
How viable is this plan? Is it worth donating the $360?

Ngiam Shih Tung wrote: Any informed comment on the viability of this plan and whether it is worth donating the $360 ?

I interned at the Esso refinery on Pulau Ayer Chawan long ago and one of my memories of that stint was that going to work every day, one could look down below the jetty on the island and see some really beautiful corals. I can't offer any opinion as to the diversity or rarity of the corals but as a layman it was preety amazing that such corals could be found literally in the shadow of an operating oil refinery. Those corals are gone now, of course, thanks to the creation of Jurong Island but still, it's a reminder that Singapore still doesn't have a Blue Plan even though there is, on paper at least, a Green Plan. Shih Tung

Jeffrey Low wrote:

I must point out that I have helped out in the project before, so my opinion on the project is slightly biased. However, since my MSc thesis was on artificial reefs, I think the views expressed here are fairly balanced. Artificial reefs work .... usually not in the "miraculous" nature that some organisations market their expertise, but enough cases are documented that show that they work.

Factors to keep in mind that make artificial reef programmes work:

1. What is the artificial reef for? Artificial reefs can be created for many reasons: to attract fish (in the case of floating palm fronds in open sea), as a base for corals to grow on (with concrete or fibreglass modules), as tourist attractions (ship wrecks in shallow waters etc).

2. Are pre-existing conditions suitable for artificial placement? (Also see question above). If an area has been overfished, then the use of artificial structures to lure the fish will not be as effective (ie, less fish). If the conditions are not right for coral growth (eg placed too deep, or in water too cold for corals to grow), then there will be no coral ... you get the picture.

3. (Looking only at corals) What corals are used? Obviously a locally-occurring coral would be best. We have 55 genera and between 150-200 species of corals, growing in diverse shapes and forms. Some genera / species / growth forms are more suitable then others. Of course, there will also be naturally recruiting corals.

4. How are they being attached to the artificial structure? The best method is usually with cement. Naturally recruited corals will have their own "cement".

5. What is the source of attached corals? What state are they in? Local, "farm-bred" source would be ideal, otherwise, you'd be removing corals from the natural reef to an artificial one. Transport to the site can also add stress to the corals, which may affect their survivability.

6. Time frame and environmental conditions? None of the corals will be in *static* state. Parts of it will die off, growth maybe faster in some parts than others, then slow down; the centre may die off, leaving the edges to form "new" coral colonies etc. This can happen within a year, a month or a few weeks, depending on the environmental conditions.

7. Visitorship This is for programmes that are for divers .... how close do the divers get to the corals? Accidental brushing against the artificial reefs may dislodge corals, scare the fish etc, depending on the frequency, this could be a problem.

8. Policing / enforcement Is there going to be a 24-hour watch on the corals? Night time poachers could come and swipe the corals, or fish in the area ..... accidental grounding of boats could damage the artificial reefs ... etc etc etc.

Certainly the idea of artificial reefs to "enhance" a degraded reef is a feasible one .... its maintenace and success, however, will be time-consuming and resource intensive. Better to not have done the damage at all, of course, but it is a worthy effort, though, given the damage that has already been done.

Shih Tung, your remark about Pulau Ayer Chawan has reminded me of the stories my dad told me of the huge fish that the boatmen plying the Singapore-Jurong route used to catch in their fish traps. Like you said all that is but a fleeting memory now, since our yourger generation think that fish (and now chicken and other poultry) are now come from supermarkets :\ Cheers.

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