Working to save islands and coral reefs from climate change
IEF member Austin Bowden-Kerby in Fiji has worked for many decades to address the problems of coral reefs and the small islands that depend on them. He has pioneered techniques for restoring damaged coral reefs by growing coral fragments to a size where they can be replanted on the reefs, just as trees are used for reforestation, as long as the source of damage has been controlled. More recently, with climate change raising ocean temperatures and causing corals to bleach and die, he has been identifying more heat-resistant coral forms that can be used to replace bleached corals and maintain the basis of reef life. His coral restoration project in Fiji and Kiritimati was chosen as one of only six case studies globally by UNEP in a report published just last January: https://www.icriforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Hein-et-al.-2020_U…. The case study is also posted on its own at the Reef Resilience Network site: https://reefresilience.org/case-studies/south-pacific-restoration/.
Austin has also worked to train islanders in more sustainable lifestyles, creating a permaculture farm and Teitei Livelihoods Centre https://www.teiteifiji.org in Fiji in 2019. In 2018, the former president of Kiribati, Mr Annote Tong, visited the farm with a Dutch film crew. The Netherlands TV documentary they produced on sea level rise and impacts on the islanders in the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Fiji (in Dutch, but with English interviews) is posted online: https://www.npostart.nl/na-ons-de-zondvloed/10-11-2019/VPWON_1289033. It shows Austin explaining his coral work to the Dutch film-maker. If the corals on a reef are healthy, they may be able to grow and keep up with sea level rise, or at least protect the islands for longer.
Austin advises that Fiji allows researchers and their families in on permit into the COVID-19 free country, passing through a two week quarantine on entry. Student interns can also come in on permit and Corals for Conservation can take up to five interns a year. They have a list of potential research topics for MS and PhD students. Anyone interested can write directly to Austin, whose adddress is available through the IEF secretariat.
The paper by Austin Bowden-Kerby on Reefs of Hope Strategy: Facilitating the Adaptation of Coral Reefs to Climate Change is available in the papers section on this web site.
Last updated 20 March 2021