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REGION - EAST

Coral spawning shows positive sign of recovery of marine ecosystem - Expert

24/11/2021 04:31 PM

KUALA NERUS,  Nov 24 -- The coral spawning process that was detected by a group of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) researchers recently is a positive sign that the marine ecosystem in waters off Terengganu is recovering from the effects of the tropical storm Pabuk that struck the Malay Peninsula in January 2019, said UMT coral researcher Associate Professor Dr Tan Chun Hong

He said the findings also gave a positive sign that the Terengganu waters still had the potential to contribute new seeds of the marine animal to other territorial waters.

"However, this process requires a combination of specific signals from the environment before starting, namely the rising sea water temperature or the highest in the season, secondly, the intensity of moonlight because the results show spawning occurs about a week after the full moon, and third, the movement of sea currents which is very slow.

"Only with a combination of these three conditions, corals, as  sessile animals or colonies,  can interact with each other and release their eggs into the sea simultaneously for fertilisation," he told Bernama today.

In simple terms, coral spawning is the reef having sex. Coral polyps simultaneously release egg and sperm bundles that they have spent months growing into the ocean for external fertilisation.

The results of the study also showed that in waters off the east coast of the Peninsular Malaysia,  there are two spawning seasons, namely in March to April and around September to October, but, each colony only lays eggs once a year.

He said the process of coral spawning is important for the sustainability of the marine ecosystem, where corals would not increase or double at a fast rate.

"This is because the growth of corals is very slow. For example, the Genus Acropora, only grows by 10 centimetres a year.

“Therefore, with there being millions of coral seeds continuously, it can ensure the continuity of this marine species in future.

"However, of the millions of eggs, not all will survive. Most will be eaten by other predators, or die floating on the sea surface or drift to areas unsuitable for life," he added.

Since 2018, Tan and a group of UMT researchers have managed to record the spawning process of more than 20 new species of corals.

Through the data obtained, more accurate predictions can be made on coral species and spawning seasons while understanding the threats such as water pollution, physical damage from human activities and global climate change, he said.

He expressed concern of the number of corals in the country's aquatic ecosystem decreasing if the spawning process were to be disrupted,.

“That is why UMT often conducts marine awareness workshops to local stakeholders, such as villagers, resort operators, diving and snorkeling coach activities.

"The objective of the workshop is to turn them into marine frontliners so that they understand better the importance of coral reefs. They are ambassadors to help preserve our country's treasures. With the knowledge learned, it will be passed on to tourists and the local community to ensure its sustainability is preserved for future generation,” he added.

-- BERNAMA


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