The words "coral gardening" conjure up images of Spongebob Squarepants reclining on a deckchair as mermaids go about pruning neat rows of Staghorn coral on the sea bed.
Alas, the oceans aren’t full of fictional characters from children’s books or television. These days they tend to be full of imperilled species, sewage, six-pack rings, chemical waste, and the odd Somalian pirate. Neither is a coral garden something you’re likely to see Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh mincing their way through. It is in fact a serious technique being employed to combat the grave danger posed to the world’s coral reefs. HYDROMAG takes a closer look at some of the sterling work being done to protect these poor endangered bastards. For those who aren’t aware, coral is neither rock nor plant, but a living species. These tiny animals, called coral polyps, rather macabrely reside on the skeletons of their forefathers. As each generation dies, so another layer is added to the reef – and so on over the millennia (some reefs are estimated to be 10,000 years of age), slowly developing into the beautiful, vibrant structures we see today. They are often called the “rainforests of the sea”, as they are teeming with over 4000 species of fish, and provide a home for 25% of all marine species. They attract scuba-diving tourists, create jobs for local communities, and provide essential storm cover for many vulnerable coastlines. All of this is at risk, however, thanks to Man’s inherent tendency to piss on his doorstep.