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S'pore unveils first coral nursery to conserve underwater habitat

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
30 July 2007

SINGAPORE : Singapore now has a coral nursery.

It is located on the shores off Semakau Island on Singapore's southern coast.

Its aim is to conserve and grow the country's natural corals.

It is estimated that three-fifths of Singapore's reefs off its southern coast have been lost over the past 200 years because of rapid economic growth.

So a two-year conservation effort is trying to reverse that effect.

It is focusing on using fragments of naturally-broken hard coral to protect existing reefs.

The location has been chosen because of the amount of light and oxygen available to the corals, so that they can grow and spawn.

The corals are placed about three metres under the seawater at mid-tide on the seabed.

Scientists hope that after a year, the corals can be transplanted to reefs around Singapore's southern coast.

They believe the coral will grow to form part of a new coral reef.

To maximise the chances of success, the coral is grown on the rubble and is then secured onto plastic platforms. This will make sure they are protected.

"That will immediately remove the impact of sediments, which otherwise would accumulate around them. And we'll also secure the fragments so that they don't roll about. This helps to stabilise them and improve their chances of survival," said Professor Chou Loke Ming, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS).

Helping other species survive also has other benefits. According to the project partners, chemical compounds are found in corals as well as in the organisms living on them.

These compounds can also be used to test for contaminants in developing drugs and vaccines.

So project organisers, NParks, NUS and Keppel Corporation, hope more corals can lead to more opportunities to grow Singapore's bio-chemical industry. - CNA /ls

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