Restoring Coral Reefs: DER Touristik Foundation’s Collaboration with Maldives Coral Institute

DERTOUR Foundation Projekt Malediven Korallen

Championing Underwater Renewal

As the DER Touristik Foundation reaches the remarkable milestone of a decade of impactful collaborations, we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on our valued partners. Today, we would like to introduce you to Maldives Coral Institute (MCI), a science-led organisation that aims to help coral reefs to survive and adapt to the changing climate.

Their mission is to research, develop and implement the means to build coral resilience, mitigate adverse human impact and save our corals and reefs from irreversible loss and degradation.

Navigating Coral Conservation: MCI’s Commitment in Focus

Environmental threats and conservation efforts are interwoven in Maldives Coral Institute’s efforts to protect underwater ecosystems. One noteworthy initiative is the restoration of the K. Himmafushi Reef to address post-degradation issues – the project was made possible with the support of DER Touristik Foundation.

Rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, and destructive development practices pose a serious threat to coral atolls in the Maldives, especially in Kaafu Atoll (Male’ Atoll), where there is a large amount of human activity and development, thus leading to, its reefs being very degraded. Furthermore, Himmafushi has had multiple coastal infrastructure projects including land reclamation for land expansion as well as past and recent harbour developments.

The deterioration of reefs has left local communities vulnerable to erosion and flooding. To combat this, the MCI initiated a multi-stage restoration project using the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS), with the support of Mars Global. This low-tech, community-based approach has proven successful in rebuilding reefs swiftly. The project emphasizes community involvement, working closely with the Island Council and engaging the local population to ensure a sustainable rebuilding process.

DER Touristik Foundation’s sponsorship enabled the installation of 96 MARRS reef stars so far, covering approximately 96 square meters of a designated coral sanctuary. Furthermore, the Foundation’s support facilitated the training of nine local community members in the MARRS method to monitor the nursery area, ensuring the long-term success of the restoration.

Insights from Aya Naseem: A Scientific Perspective

In an exclusive interview with Aya Naseem, Co-founder, Vice Chairperson and Chief Research and Outreach Officer at MCI, she highlighted the institute’s mission to address climate change threats and unsustainable development impacting coral reefs. “Innovative techniques can be a hopeful step towards recovery in projects like Himmafushi, showcasing the success of involving communities and preserving coral ecosystems,” she added.

Aya also shed light on the misconception surrounding bleached corals, clarifying that they are not necessarily dead. When corals experience stress, they expel their symbiotic algae, leading to bleaching. They are in a compromised state, but they still have the capacity to recover, if the stress does not persist for too long.

For those contemplating a visit to the Maldives, Aya’s appeal is both poignant and pragmatic. “Beyond the vibrance and beauty of coral formations, lies their role as the foundational support for the existence of our islands, not only offering protection against waves but also contributing to the overall health of the islands and the wellbeing of its people. Protection of important coral reefs is vital and should be the first step towards preservation of reef systems. With improved conditions that come from adequately protected reefs, corals can recover and even develop resilience to subsequent bleaching events. That said, initiatives like and the K. Himmafushi reef restoration project are at times necessary to increase coral biomass and preserve species diversity, which can aid natural recovery in the future. Collaborative efforts between communities, organizations, and supportive partners such as DER Touristik Foundation provide opportunities to work sustainably towards preserving these vital ecosystems,” she concluded.