If you want to understand why the coral reefs of the Caribbean went from wonderful to wasteland, a lot of the ecological change seems to hinge on a plague that nearly wiped out Diadema sea urchins in 1983. With that idea in mind, the one and only Martin Moe has been researching the life history of the long spined sea urchin and trying to better understand how to bring this keystone herbivore species back on the reefs of the Caribbean.
When the Diadema disappeared, the reefs of the Caribbean saw a stark shift from coral dominated ecosystems to algae dominated reefs, and as we know from our experience in keeping reef and coral aquariums, corals and algae are not environmentally compatible. Martin Moe hopes to do for sea urchins what the Coral Restoration Foundation is doing for corals and he’s already become pretty successful at spawning and rearing Diadema sea urchins.
Many articles have been written about Moe’s work with Diadema, but this is the first time that his efforts have been documented on video, thanks to Frank Reece and BlueZoo TV. Better yet, the spawning captured by this short film is the first time that Diadema spawning has been caught on video, at least in the captive aquarium space.
From Frank’s video with Martin it seems that Moe has learned all he can about captive rearing of the Diadema sea urchin and now it’s time to step up his efforts into a larger scale operation. If this keystone herbivore can be reared in mass numbers and reestablished in nature, it could recreate an environment that is conducive to the return of stony corals to Caribbean reefs.