FLACQ, Mauritius, June 24, 2023 /CNW/ — Huawei Mauritius, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and EcoMode Society today announced a new phase of the Tech4Nature Mauritius project to study species’ reproductive success in a restored area of reef in Mauritius.
The new phase directly follows a key project milestone achieved in June in which the partners, supported by the local community, successfully transplanted 25,000 coral fragments cultivated in coral nurseries to a degraded area of the reef ecosystem in Pointe-aux-Feuilles, a 20-km2 site off the east coast of Mauritius. This project is one of the first its type in the Western Indian Ocean.
“I commend the achievement of the Tech4Nature initiative. Our objective is that by 2030, we can work together for a healthy ocean that supports nature and people,” said the Honorable Sudheer Maudhoo, Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping for Mauritius. “With the support of the Tech4Nature initiative, Huawei, and its partners, we look forward to continued action to restore ocean and coastal biodiversity for future generations.”
To monitor the mobility of species at the coral reef restoration site and determine the factors that disturb reproductive success, a solution comprising cameras and GPS receivers, 4G, and cloud has been deployed. The second phase of the project will use AI-based data analysis to guide the conservation decisions, support the research of marine biologists, and educate the public on the importance of reef conservation and restoration.
“The project will help us to have more information to manage and regulate public use,” said Nadeem Nazurally, President of the EcoMode Society. “It will also bring biodiversity conservation closer to the general public, as videos and other dissemination materials are planned through the mobile app. In collaboration with IUCN and Huawei, the project allows us to make a qualitative leap by incorporating new technologies to the monitoring and conservation of species.”
The 243-km2 lagoon created by the 150-km reef system of fringing coral is home to a rich array of aquatic life, including 61 species of macroalgae, 110 species of corals, 132 species of fish, and many endemic species. However, the reef system faces many threats, including overfishing, pollution, and changing seawater composition due to the removal of mangroves and seagrass. Climate change has caused a rise in sea levels, more extreme storms, and increased sea temperatures. Restoration efforts for coral reefs can boost resilience against climate change by protecting coastal regions against erosion and mitigate rising sea levels.
As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Mauritius relies heavily on its coral reef resources, especially its fisheries and tourism industries – tourism accounts for about 8% of the island nation’s GDP and 10% of its employment. Coral aquaculture to repair degraded reef has gained traction in Mauritius, with microfragmentation serving as a relatively new technique where small coral fragments are mounted in off-site nurseries using concrete blocks, galvanized structures, and natural basaltic rocks to support coral growth.
Early monitoring at the restoration site has shown an increase in local biodiversity, and an additional 1,890 coral fragments are currently being propagated in the coral nursery to expand the restoration area. With the site’s designation as a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA), the momentum for revitalizing biodiversity in the reef ecosystem using the power of technology and partnerships is accelerating.
“Collaboration between public institutions and the private sector is increasingly necessary to determine success in the face of complex environmental challenges,” said James Hardcastle, Head of Protected and Conserved Areas Team for IUCN. “We have the opportunity to take advantage of technological innovations and incorporate them into conservation measures for our ecosystems. This project exemplifies how cooperation and mainstreaming are the way forward to halt biodiversity loss.”
“This project is the first of its kind that we are investing in Mauritius, after dozens of successful experiences of developing solutions to protect different species and natural spaces in countries around the world using advanced technologies such as cloud, AI, and connectivity,” said Zheng Kui, CEO of Huawei Mauritius. “The role of the technology industry in meeting this challenge is key, but only through collaboration with strategic and committed partners can the objectives be achieved in a real way.”
It is hoped that this project can be replicated in other areas of Mauritius and balance the needs of tourism and conservation. And with up to 50% of the world’s coral reef already destroyed or degraded, the project’s success to date demonstrates the value of further large-scale global reef restoration supported by digital technology.