The University of Milano-Bicocca and the government of the Republic of Maldives have officially partnered to develop a national protocol to coordinate the Maldivian coral restoration projects. 

The project aims to achieve new important goals in the fields of sustainability and biodiversity. A ceremony was held at the Milan campus auditorium, which was live-streamed on 24 February. The rector of the University, Giovanna Iannantuoni, and the Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture of the Republic of Maldives, Zaha Waheed (via conference call) signed the agreement, officially initiating the project for the development for coral reef restoration.

Rector Giovanna Iannantuoni said, “The agreement that was signed today with the Maldives government represents a new step in the collaboration that has been going on for over 11 years with the goal of protecting the coral reef and reducing pollution in the seas. This partnership, which sees us engaged on crucial issues for the future of our planet, is a source of pride for the entire academic community.”

As the biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, the complexity of coral reef health means immense dedication is needed to ensure the preservation and wellbeing, especially due to current unsustainable management of the environment and its resources. Through this partnership, advanced techniques that will be used in coral reef restoration will be analyzed and tested to select the most effective methods for survival of the delicate organisms found in the Maldives, and to develop guidelines for their monitoring and application. Since 2009 the University of Milano-Bicocca has been studying new solutions for the protection of corals and the marine environment. MaRHE research and higher education centre has contributed to the ability of continuing the study for these many years, located on Magoodhoo island, in the Maldives, in collaboration with the government-affiliated Maldives Marine Research Institute, as well as with foreign universities and research centres.

The project includes advanced methods which is also based on the selection of ‘super corals’, that are resistant to the effects of climate change, as well as the development of biocompatible and biodegradable mitigation methods for the healing of coral wounds, a solution that can extend the life of corals raised using restoration practices.

An initiative called “CorallaMib” was presented in the ceremony, which allows high school and university students to present their ideas. The project will follow two strands: participants who choose the scientific one will be able to test themselves by proposing solutions that can reduce the impact of anthropogenic factors on coral reefs; those who opt for the artistic-literary one will be able to present a work dedicated to the sea and environmental protection. When the global pandemic allows it, the winners of the competition will be able to go to the MaRHE center in the Maldives to study closely, together with the researchers from Milano-Bicocca, the biodiversity of this archipelago, its coral reef and the factors that are threatening its survival.

Photo credit: Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

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