Maria Vanessa Baria
Maria Vanessa Baria inspects the coral nursery (D dela Cruz)
A. millepora in the nursery (MV Baria)

Most mothers keep a careful watch on their babies – this was not so easy for Masters student Maria Vanessa Baria some of whose “babies” live in the middle of Bolinao Lagoon. She proudly acknowledges however that they are thriving, and will one day become parents themselves.

Her research is on coral recruitment and larval rearing for the CRTR Restoration and Remediation Working Group. Her Masters project determined that larval recruitment in the Bolinao-Anda reef complex is not an issue, but problems lie in the long term survival of recruits.

Successful larval rearing and subsequent survival on natural reefs is a key goal in restoration of degraded reefs, but methods must be efficient and economically viable. In her lab nursery, Vanessa has successfully reared common local species A. tenuis, A. hyacinthus, A. millepora, Montastrea colemani, Favites halicora and Platygyra pini.

When transplanted to bommies and to semi-caged nurseries in the lagoon, survival rates among species varied. A. hyacinthus and A. millepora have so far proved to be the most resilient with 100% survival in the nursery and 57% survival on the bommies.

Field trials have also proved that in the early development of coral spats, herbivory exclusion cages enhanced juvenile survivorship.

“I call the corals my ‘babies’ because I have been responsible for them, and thought about them so much,” says Vanessa, “but the really important thing is ensuring a sustainable reef so our communities that rely on them can prosper. I am very proud my coral babies have contributed to our store of knowledge.”

Vanessa’s future work will focus on larval rearing of two other species and on trying to establish the best time to outplant nursery-reared juveniles.

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