St Maarten’s Coral Restoration Project

Coral Nursery Ladder At St. Maarten Reef
Coral restoration in the coastal waters of St. Maarten (Photo: © Explorers Dive Center)

Why is coral so important?

Coral reefs are the richest and most diverse ecosystems on earth; corals are reef builders and therefore extremely important. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment. Reefs are essential for fisheries and provide a home for about a quarter of the oceans fish. Besides the massive contribution to marine biodiversity, coral reefs serve as coastline protection from storms, strong waves and erosion.

Tourists come from all over the world to see our bright and healthy coral reefs. It generates income for many and enhances the economy. As a Caribbean island we depend on our tourism so our coral reefs are worth protecting!

Coral reefs at risk!

Worldwide corals reefs have been in decline; the Caribbean has lost 80% of its coral reef cover in the last decades. The major causes of coral reef degradation are due to overfishing, climate change, coastal development, pollution and diseases.

Throughout the Caribbean, reefs have suffered massive coral losses since the early 1980’s. Two of the most abundant reef building species; Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn (A. palmata) coral are now listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.

Caribbean Elkhorn A. Palmanta Coral
Caribbean Acropora Prolifera Coral
Caribbean Acropora Cervicornis Coral

The loss of these corals has had large negative effects on biodiversity, fish biomass, and coastal protection. Healthy Acropora corals have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, an algae species that lives inside the tissues of the coral. The algae photosynthesizes nutrients, increases calcification and gives the coral most of its color.

Restoring Corals

The St Maarten Nature Foundation is restoring Elkhorn and Staghorn coral reef zones by establishing a coral nursery in order to grow coral fragments. The goal is to raise these new coral colonies in nurseries and transplant corals at selected restoration sites to repopulate denuded coral reefs with new corals.

Artificially raised corals on the reef in St. Maarten
Artificially raised corals on the reef in St. Maarten (Photo: © Nature Foundation St Maarten)
Coral Nursry Tree St. Maarten
Coral Nursery Tree (Photo: © Nature Foundation St Maarten)

Conservation efforts are much needed!

Acropora corals are critically endangered; Elkhorn coral has declined with 80% and Staghorn coral has declined with 95% since 1980.

Contact Information:

St. Maarten Nature Foundation
Wellsburg Street Unit 1 - Apt 25-26
Cole Bay, St. Maarten
Tele: +1721.544.4267