Most protected areas or no-take zones that exclude anthropogenic

Most reefs are in
tropical countries which are struggling for their economic development. Many of
these countries including Tanzania do not have even enough economic resources
to spend in management of natural resources therefore to set fund for newly
concept of coral restoration can be difficult. Despite having in place high
number of approaches to coral reef restoration, there exist several setbacks
which require political and community intervention in order to overcome.

Normally, first
approaches for coral reef conservation include establishing protected areas or
no-take zones that exclude anthropogenic disturbance of reef ecosystems.
Conserving existing areas of coral reef often results in improved ecosystem
service provision. Tanzania is one of the countries in the world which has established
large area of its coastal habitats as protected area and the vision to 2025 is
to have 50% of the under protection. However, despite all these efforts, the
uncontrollable and highly unprecedented external parameters such as prolonged
seas surface temperature, termed as Eln Nino, raises have been of high
concerns. The 1997/98 EL Nino has been responsible for wiping out large portion
of live corals (Plate 7) in Tanzania and neighboring states prompting searches
for remedial approaches.
Warming seawater leads to episodes of unusually warm water, and mass coral
bleaching which can lead, as it did in 1998, to widespread death of
coral. 

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Plate 7. Sea urching proliferation in coral reef damaged areas
of Dar es Salaam.

It is
important to stress that in Tanzania, coral reefs are important socially and
economically, whereby about 70% of artisanal fisheries take place on coral
reefs (Horril et al., 2001) while the tourism which is the mainstay of Zanzibar
is heavily dependent on coral reefs. Furthermore, the growing coastal based tourism
industry and associated activities are having strong impacts on the
socio-economics. However, the observed fast decline of the reefs is threatening
the economy of local communities, tourism industry and several others of the
associated amenities they provide.  

The rapidly declining coral reef
requires invention of economically viable, cost
effective and technically feasible adaptation measures. While various approaches
to coral reefs management have been in place with little impacts achieved, the
life of local communities must proceed uninterrupted. Since several articles within Tanzania and in the neighborhoods
have telling much the same story it is time we bring together our common thinking
and resign the way forward for reef management.  One of the most
compelling stories about coral reef status was the report published last year which
documented the loss in coral cover across the entire coastline of Tanzania (World-Bank,
2017).  The data was compared to the relatively interrupted and inconsistent
monitoring results in place since 2000 (which samples shallow portions of
entire outer slopes of each reef sampled) and it showed an average of 30.7%
loss of coral cover (from an average of 28% to 13.8% over the previous
years). Several reef areas remained barren harboring non-reefal organisms
(Plate 8) thus potential sign of coral extinction.

Plate 8: Broken coral reef area in
Sinda Island as a result of coral bleaching. On the background is the
opportunistic seagrass; Thallasodendron ciliatum.

As
was the case for Mtwara and Tanga areas, the loss was mainly through stresses such
as overfishing and dynamites – stresses that are widely present on Tanzanian coral
reefs, and have been around almost for the last 50 years and remain unabated. 
Other notable stresses included outbreaks of the Crown-of-Thorns starfish
(Plate 8), which themselves seem more prevalent since the 1990s than in the
past, and may be partially a
consequence of agricultural nutrification of coastal waters – the enriched
waters, particularly following intense rain events and flooding, can favor
larval survival leading to very much enhanced settlement of young starfish, and
a few months later, large populations of hungry coral predators. Intermittent
outbreaks have been observed to occur in Mtwara, Dar es Salaam and some
Zanzibar reefs with massive demises of corals being reported afterwards.  Lastly; the yet unclearly documented ocean
acidification has been shown to impedes the process of calcification (by making
the process more energetically demanding), used by corals and other reef
creatures to build their skeletons, and therefore to build or repair reef.

An
emerging approach in tackling coral reef decline is an ecosystem-based
adaptation. Ecosystem-based adaptation integrates the protection and use of
biodiversity and ecosystem services into an overall strategy to help people
adapt to the adverse  impacts of reef
resources decline. Tanzania recognises the importance of biodiversity and
ecosystem services to reef-based tourism industry, local communities and the broader
public. The connections between people and the ecosystem are especially
important in the context of reef decline. A healthy Reef enhances the resilience
of the ecosystem to adverse impacts of decline; a resilient ecosystem reduces
the vulnerability of tourism industry and communities that depend on the reef. National
and international coral reef decline adaptation strategies have evolved significantly
over the past few years. In this context, Tanzania collaborated with a wide
range of local, regional and global organisations that are working to mitigate coral
reef decline impacts while adapting coral reef management. Internationally, the
Tanzania has established strong working relationships with coral reef managers around
the world. A partnership with the World-Bank (SWIOFish Project), WWF, IUCN, Reef Check and
several others has been networking to tackle coral reef decline issues and
developed approaches to adaptation planning.

 

While
many of the options proposed todate are unlikely to salvage reefs at the global
scale, most of these interventions may be of value considering if managers decide
that sustaining and rebuilding a subset of ecosystem services at a local to
regional scale is a desirable outcome. In applying principles of ecosystem
management, interventions for reef conservation of keystone species and
ecosystem engineers (i.e., corals) that underpin coral reef  fisheries and tourism industries is the mos desirable.
The keystone species and ecosystem engineers’ help to sustain local fish
species as well as visitors thus at least provide some goods, services and support
appropriate for the local societies’ livelihoods and the tourism industry.  Maintaining the viability of different habitat
forming species such as branching coral species also provides resistance to
ecological change. In support of this, a high tech but economically viable in
terms of costs; coral gardening (mariculture) concept by Rinkevich (1995) was
suggested and developed. This is an essential, complementary component for reef
restoration, in conjunction with transplantation techniques. This could be a
major conceptual approach in reef restoration that has been so far abandoned due
to high costs. The concept incorporates a two step protocol, one being
gardening small colonies and ramets directly on mid water nurseries attached to
the reef bottom (Plate 9), designed to provide a firm but temporary structure
(Shafir et al., 2006). Upon reaching a suitable size and shape, cultivated
colonies are transplanted back into their natal reef in carefully planned
transplantation programme (Epstein et al. 2001; Soong and
Chen, 2003; Shafir et al., 2003, 2005; Rinkevich et al., 2005).

Plate 9: a,b, Mid water nursery
constructed out of locally available abandoned nets and  plastic bottles acting as bouys in Mafia Island,
Tanzania

In
comparison to the harmful practice of harvesting corals for transplantation
from donor reef areas, the establishment of coral nurseries, containing local
species and genets that are managed in a sustainable manner, eliminates the
need for the extraction of valuable coral material for transplantation
(Rinkevich, 1995, 2000; Epstein and Rinkevich, 2001; Epstein et al., 2001). A
protected nursery phase provides the transplanted material with an acclimation
period ensuring better survivorship and growth to a size suitable for
transplantation. The transplantation of nursery-grown fragments back into their
natal reef (Plate 10) helps in preventing genet and species extinctions in degrading
sites (Sinsch, 1997). It also preserves the genetic heterogeneity. A coral
nursery may also be considered as a local species pool that supplies
reef-managers with coral colonies for sustainable management (Rinkevich, 1995,
2000; Epstein et al., 2001).

Plate 10: Transplanted nursery grown
corals in Changuu Island, Zanzibar

The
nursery grown corals can also be transplanted by local communities without
using expensive scuba dive gears, just by snorkeling. While this approach provides the first insight into
reef restoration through application of the two-step restoration protocol in
East Africa, large-scale restoration projects that are urgently needed in
Tanzania, may require direct involvement and participation of local communities
(Wagner, 2004; Rinkevich, 2008; Mbije et al., 2010). The active involvement of local communities is very
important (Mbije et al., 2010) to
achieve a highly successful production of coral fragments at low costs and in
short time (Mbije et al., 2010). The
extent of denuded reefs along the coastline is so huge that without community restoration
may falter. On the other hand, unlike the past restoration efforts in Tanzania
(Franklin et al., 1998; Lindahl,
1998, 2003; Wagner et al., 2001) the
current one experienced direct community because of tampering with the
nurseries which prompted hiring of guards for a few months. The community
involvement, besides providing abundant manpower for making potentially large
nurseries for production of large quantities of fragments for restoration, it
also creates sense of ownership and thus minimizes unwarranted vandalism of the
nurseries (Mbije et al., 2010). In
other studies, local community participation was effective in conservation and
restoration initiatives around the world (Ferrer et al., 1996; Meñez et al., 1998; Meñez et al., 2012).

Lastly,
it is important to take precaution here that many of the proactive strategies stated
requires network across the globe It is certain, however, from the limited
reach of coral reef interventions, that any actions must be undertaken as part
of a suite of global scale interventions including atmospheric CO2 reduction to
preserve coral reef ecosystem fun ction and benefits to humanity. Ultimately,
only the reduction of atmospheric CO2 levels will address the challenges of OA,
and without deep and rapid emissions reductions, the future of coral reefs is
at risk.