Through its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programme, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is committed to preserving and regenerating the beautiful places in which it operates, and to leaving a positive, enduring impact on its local communities.
In 2001, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa began a pioneering partnership with local environmental agency, Reefscapers, to protect and regrow coral colonies in the Maldives.
Using an innovative technique of tying coral fragments onto ‘coral frames’ – produced by a local co-operative of eight employees – the Resort set about restoring local reefs. Each genotype was painstakingly logged to help identify species more resilient to bleaching, and each frame regularly monitored, photographed and maintained. For more than two decades, guests have been invited to plant their own reef and watch it grow at MarineSavers.com.
Fast forward 22 years and the partnership between Four Seasons Resorts Maldives and Reefscapers has developed into one of the world’s largest artificial reef restoration projects.
Thanks in part to the kind donations of Four Seasons guest sponsors, more than 8,500 transplanted reef structures now subsist in the waters around the two Maldivian Resort islands of Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru. Comprising some 500,000 fragments from 40 species of coral, the project has inspired a country-wide program of coral reefscaping.
In 2022, the project’s first-of-its-kind Artificial Intelligence (AI) research was recognised in peer-reviewed science journal, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. The pioneering study used AI to assess, analyse and record data on the Resorts’ use of coral frames, becoming the world’s largest study of its kind on coral restoration to date—with results centred around emerging technologies published with the aim of inspiring scientists in numerous fields to take on similar cross-disciplinary challenges, and find new ways to protect the environment.
The process of restoration is now going full cycle with asexually propagated frames that have matured now undergoing natural sexual reproduction. The Reefscapers team has been documenting these coral spawning events and patterns across two Maldivian reef atoll systems since 2021.
By tracking its transplanted coral colonies over months and studying countless influencing factors to calculate spawning times, the team has managed to capture every stage of the coral spawning process on video.
In a further evolution of its pioneering studies, the team was the first in the Maldives to collect gametes from mature corals in situ, and fertilise and settle them in the lab; with an estimated 90% dying in the wild in the first 6 months of their life, settling coral ex-situ dramatically boosts survivorship prospects.
To date the team has settled five species more than eight times and hopes to create a simple methodology that can be used across the country to repopulate areas of damaged reef, increase diversity, and help colonies adapt to changing environmental conditions.
More information on the conservation projects of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives can be found at https://marinesavers.com/.