CUHK and WWF join forces to revive Hong Kong’s corals
In a major milestone to restore degraded coral communities in Hong Kong, today, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and WWF-Hong Kong signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a coral conservation partnership.
Corals are vitally important in sustaining marine biodiversity and building climate resilience. Hong Kong waters are home to 84 species of hard corals, with a coverage rate reaching over 70% in some areas. However, corals in Hong Kong also face a number of serious threats. For example, in the Tolo Harbour and Channel, coral coverage has declined by 80% since the 1980s. This was mainly due to urban development and marine pollution, and although this situation has improved, the coral communities are still struggling to recover.
To turn the tide, WWF-Hong Kong has launched a new initiative called “Reviving Our Corals” to demonstrate the positive impacts of coral conservation and raise awareness about coral restoration . As part of the initiative, this partnership with CUHK will allow us to actively restore and reintroduce coral communities, which is essential to rewilding degraded marine areas. This new partnership will see at least 1,000 coral fragments rescued, nurtured, put back in the sea, and then closely monitored by the research team of CUHK.
As Mr Dan Bradshaw, Chairman of WWF-Hong Kong remarked, “Corals are an important component of our marine ecosystem and support numerous species. We are very excited to work with CUHK to scale up their research work, bring back corals and restore key marine habitats. This collaboration is an important step towards addressing a vital marine conservation issue and gives us a glimpse of how nature-based solutions can address biodiversity loss and climate change.”
CUHK Vice-President (Administration) and University Secretary Mr Eric S.P. Ng said, “Coral conservation is a critical issue for the biodiversity and ecosystem of our oceans. As a university committed to being a leader in sustainability, we are thrilled to partner with WWF to protect and restore degraded coral communities in Hong Kong. This collaboration underscores our dedication to address urgent environmental challenges and leverage our research excellence to make a real impact on our planet.”
The Coral Academy from the School of Life Sciences at CUHK has introduced several novel coral restoration strategies in Hong Kong designed to mitigate coral population declines and enhance genetic diversity. To date, most coral restoration efforts have focused on preserving existing coral biodiversity through collecting, cutting and culturing coral fragments. Although this method is effective in increasing coral coverage, it is also limited due to the genetic diversity of the source fragments. To increase diversity and improve the adaptive capacity of corals, the Coral Academy has been collecting coral egg bundles and allowing them to fertilise and develop into juveniles before returning them to degraded sites of Tolo Channel for several years. In 2022, these laboratory-bred and outplanted corals were confirmed sexually viable in the field.
This MoU between CUHK and WWF-Hong Kong covers several key aspects, including working together to demonstrate coral conservation and nursery activities at WWF Hoi Ha Marine Life Centre; assisting each other in coral monitoring and education programmes; culturing and displaying coral fragments and juveniles; and setting up coral nursery aquaria for conservation and education purposes.