World Ocean Day: BULA Reef, the largest word ever written under the sea!

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BULA Reef Aerial

Coral reefs in Fiji carry immense cultural importance for indigenous Fijians, serving as vital resources for subsistence fishing, coastal defense, and economic opportunities. Fiji boasts one of the planet’s most expansive coral reef systems, supporting over a quarter of all marine species—an impressive statistic for an ecosystem occupying less than 0.10% of the Earth’s surface.

Fun Fact 1: BULA (a Fijian greeting also meaning ‘life’) has been immortalised beneath the waters off Plantation Island Resort and is now the largest rescue reef of its kind in history, measuring 16 metres tall and 45 metres wide, with letters larger than the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles

What is BULA Reef?


Video: Bula Reef: A Rescue Nursery for over a Thousand Head Adapted Corals

BULA Reef is a coral nursery composed of heat adapted ‘super corals’ which have adapted to grow in warmer ocean waters (above 36C (97F)). The large BULA frame structure hosts over a thousand colonies of rescued heat resistant corals, transplanted by our Marine Biologists.

A “super-coral” is ultimately a coral with superior tolerance/survivorship when exposed to conditions considered “stressful” for most coral species (Camp et al, 2018). Survivorship through refuge is achieved because some environmental factor is shielding the coral from stress. Such protection can be provided by other organisms such as mangrove trees or by hydrological conditions such as colder water currents that keep a part of an ecosystem cool while the rest overheats, facilitating coral survival. On the other hand, survivorship through tolerance can be characterized as an increased ability of a coral to cope with stress without the need for external aid, but through intrinsic mechanisms derived from genetic selection or from conditioning to a particular stress (Camp et al, 2018) (CoralGuardian.org)

Why are Coral Reefs so important?


Video: Saving Coral Reefs: We cannot wait any longer.

Coral reefs are often referred to as the “rainforests of the sea” due to the rich diversity of life they support. These vibrant habitats in Fiji and worldwide are crucial for sustaining marine ecosystems, providing homes and nourishment for over a million species. Their decline would not only harm biodiversity locally but also have far-reaching global consequences, impacting countless other marine life forms like fish, turtles, and various sea creatures.

How is Plantation Island Resort involved?


Aerial photography of Plantation Island Resort
Aerial View of the Award-winning Resort in the Mamanuca Islands Plantation Island Resort.

In 2018, Plantation Island Resort partnered with Corals For Conservation to set up a science backed Coral Reef Research and Restoration Centre at Plantation Island Resort. The program differs from most coral gardening work, as it involves restoring coral reefs using heat adapted corals and working with natural processes of coral reef recovery.

The Resorts Marine Biologists collect these “Super Coral” fragments and replant them into our cooler water nurseries to monitor and multiply them. The goal is to ensure the survival of many different genotypes.

  • Raising Super Corals – The corals in these nurseries can grow quickly, up to 10 times their original size in a year. Once large enough, they are then trimmed, and the branches are used to repair degraded reefs, increasing their resilience against rising ocean temperatures.
  • Back on to the Reef – After one year of growth in the nurseries, Super-Corals are also planted on an A-frame and other significant structures underwater. Out planting patches are made up of genetically diverse corals which allows for natural reproduction and restoration of the Reefs.

Guests of Plantation Island Resort can learn more about the Coral Conservation program and participate in a variety of guest activities, including a weekly tour to BULA Reef, guided by our Marine Biologists.

What is the significance of this project?


Plantation Island Resort Bula Reef Building Marine Biologists
Image: Dr Austin Bowden-Kirby of Corals for Conservation at Plantation Island Resort Fiji (Courtesy of Managment)

“BULA” is a cry to action, to actively work with corals to keep them alive and well in spite of the stress of warmer oceans. It is an invitation to all to join Corals For Conservation and Plantation Island Resort in working to save this most jeopardised ecosystem.

As the first Reefs of Hope project to be launched, BULA Reef also represents the first coral-focused climate change adaptation program to be officially endorsed by UNESCO as part of its Ocean Decade of Action, providing the highest level of international recognition for the project.

What is the United Nations Ocean Decade of Action?

Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda (United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

References

  • Coral Guardian (2022, September 22). Super corals, a not-so-super term?. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from Link