Programme now set to proceed to research and on-site implementation with significant positive impacts for coral conservation and restoration worldwide.
The MSC Foundation has signed agreements with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Nova Southeastern University (Florida) finalizing the terms of the graduate internship program that will support its Super Coral Program research and development activities in 2021 using a blended approach, virtual and on site at Ocean Cay in The Bahamas.
This marks the kick-off of the implementation phase of the innovative program that the MSC Foundation conceived, together with a panel of experts, as its own urgent response to the emergency of coral reefs approaching increasingly imminent extinction due to climate change and pollution.
Pierfrancesco Vago, Chair of the MSC Group’s MSC Foundation Executive Committee, commented: “This partnership marks an important step forward in our commitment to implement a marine conservation program to reverse the steep decline of coral reefs around the globe, which threatens a quarter of all marine life. The Ocean is in our DNA, which is why the Super Coral program is more than a local initiative to protect and restore the coral reefs around Ocean Cay and Florida. It is designed to build unique expertise in the study and practice of coral resilience, developing a model that can be successfully replicated around the world.”
Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, serve as a food and economic resource for half a billion people and protect coastal communities from storms and erosion. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists predict that 70-90% of coral reefs are in danger of dying out within the next two decades (2030-2050).
David Smith, Professor of Marine Biology at The University of Essex and Chief Scientific Advisor on the MSC Foundation Advisory Board for the Super Coral Program, emphasized: “We are constantly bombarded with warnings about the demise of coral reefs around the world, and rightly so, it’s absolutely true they’re being obliterated. There is an urgent need to act to stop further harm being done and to accelerate our efforts to find solutions to reverse the global trend of reef loss. There are not many cases where you can say there is a real opportunity to do exactly this, so here we have a real window of hope. Initiating large scale collaborative projects that seek to provide real solutions now, represents our best chance of securing a future for coral reefs and the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on them.”
The program aims to research, develop, test and refine methods to reverse the decline in coral reefs in the 64-square-mile marine reserve around Ocean Cay, pioneering the rebuilding of damaged coral reefs with coral species that are more resilient to environmental threats like ocean pollution and warming. These studies are the work in which the University of Miami Rosenstiel School and Nova Southeastern University scientists will be directly involved.
“The MSC Super Coral Program seeks to help restore coral reefs in The Bahamas to a healthy state through actively selecting for climate change resistant genotypes and enhancing sexual propagation of those genotypes,” explained Chris Langdon, Professor of the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Overall, the first implementation phase of this program comprises:
• The compilation of two literature reviews on coral reef restoration, one focused on functional restoration and coral conservation methods in the Caribbean, and the other on species that are resistant and/or resilient to underwater condition and temperature changes.
• The development of awareness-raising materials for Ocean Cay guests and the general public on the emergency facing coral reefs, their importance and how to take action to protect them at individual and collective levels.
• The building of the first phase of the Super Coral Center (BioLab) at Ocean Cay, which includes the laboratory and coral nursery areas.
"MS Marine Biology students from Nova Southeastern University have an outstanding opportunity for research internships at Ocean Cay, Bahamas, funded by the MSC Foundation," observed Joana Figueiredo Ph.D. at Nova Southeastern University. “They will help set up a coral nursery to propagate corals, study the marine life of the marine reserve around the island, and interact with guests to inform them about coral reef protection.”
The goals of the Super Coral Program are to:
• Restore the coral reefs around Ocean Cay so they become more resistant to environmental change.
• Pioneer the use of hardy Super Coral species and varieties to increase the resilience of the reefs.
• Develop and share a scalable replicable model to advance scientific understanding and promote thriving coral and marine restoration worldwide.
• Promote public awareness of and action in support of marine conservation and coral reef restoration.
• Timeframe of the program: 2019-2024
About the Super Coral Program in Ocean Cay
MSC Foundation’s flagship marine conservation program focuses on the waters around Ocean Cay in The Bahamas, 65 miles east of Miami. Once an industrial sand excavation site, Ocean Cay has been transformed by MSC Cruises – its operator – into a private island destination surrounded by crystal blue waters that are home to important marine species and coral habitats now threatened by ocean degradation. The MSC Foundation is working in collaboration with a team of scientists and environmental experts to identify hardy species and genotypes of coral, colloquially named “Super Coral” that have survived recent extreme ocean heat events and other impacts in the waters around the island. The Foundation aims to restore coral abundance and diversity around the cay by propagating and out-planting thermally tolerant coral species and genotypes. In time, these regenerated sites will support strong and resilient ecological functionality and provide a lifeline for coral reefs in the region, helping to ensure their future survival.
About the MSC Foundation
The non-profit MSC Foundation implements the MSC Group’s marine conservation, humanitarian and sustainable development commitments worldwide, utilising MSC’s global reach and unique knowledge of the sea to protect and nurture our blue planet, its peoples and our shared cultural heritage.
Concentrating on four areas – the Environment, Community Support, Education and Emergency Relief – the Foundation promotes the protection and sustainable management of ecosystems, empowers vulnerable communities around the world to realize their full potential, supports equitable and inclusive quality education to foster enduring individual and collective development, and helps disaster-struck populations toward recovery.
The Foundation works to achieve this both independently and with dedicated partners: independently, by leveraging MSC Group engagement in designing and managing projects, connecting communities, raising awareness and mobilising the financial support of thousands of people, and together with trusted partners selected for their strong innovative vision or track record for effective action.
About University of Miami
The University of Miami is a private research university and academic health system with a distinct geographic capacity to connect institutions, individuals, and ideas across the hemisphere and around the world. The University’s vibrant and diverse academic community comprises 12 schools and colleges serving more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 180 majors and programs. Located within one of the most dynamic and multicultural cities in the world, the University is building new bridges across geographic, cultural, and intellectual borders, bringing a passion for scholarly excellence, a spirit of innovation, a respect for including and elevating diverse voices, and a commitment to tackling the challenges facing our world. The University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. Please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.
About Nova Southeastern University (NSU)
Since 1964, NSU has been providing student with a world-class education while also providing a competitive edge they need for real careers, real contributions and real life. A dynamic, private research university, NSU is providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree levels. NSU students learn at our campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, and online globally.
About NSU’s Halmos College of Arts and Sciences and Guy Harvey Oceanographic Research Center
The college provides high-quality undergraduate and graduate education programs in a broad range of disciplines in the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, and the arts. Halmos College faculty, researchers, staff, and students pursue studies and investigations in all of these fields and in interdisciplinary projects. Excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement are at the forefront of the College's many initiatives. The Guy Harvey Oceanographic Research Center hosts cutting edge research in the marine sciences focusing on the biology, conservation, and physical aspects of the tropical and subtropical ocean environments. Please visit hcas.nova.edu
for more information.
For more information contact:
Chemin Rieu 12-14, 1208 Geneva, Switzerland
Diana Udel, Director of Communications
University of Miami
Joe Donzelli, APR
Halmos College of Arts and Sciences and Guy Harvey Oceanographic Research Center
Nova Southeastern University