Last week I took a trip to Cozumel to dive where I discovered a very interesting way in which the local divemasters helped restore coral. In Cozumel algae is a major problem that kills a large portion of coral every year. The coral is threatened in the summer from high temperatures from bleaching. Though in the Winter the coral is at risk from an entirely different problem. Recently researchers have found a correlation between algae and deaths in coral. Usually algae is a symbol of health in coral as it is a common sign of the coral being out of danger from bleaching, though algae growing externally on the coral is detrimental to its health. When algae is in abundance on a reef as it is in Cozumel it often breeds and allows for the evolution of bacteria. The common types of bacteria associated with algae doesn’t harm coral to help maintain their symbiotic relationship. However when the algae isn’t disturbed for long periods of time it can grow types of bacteria that are malignant towards coral. In a reef system like Cozumel with such tightly packed and abundant coral, the bacteria spreads like a wildfire. This is why people like divemaster Joshua scrub coral with a soft bristled brush to rid it of algae. Studies have shown that this doesn't hurt the coral and since he cleans 5-10 coral per dive and dives 2-4 times per day he is cleaning approximately 800 corals heads per year. This is a simple effort that really goes a long way in sustaining coral reefs around the world.
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