Coral reefs once flourished along the Riviera Maya. They are highly diverse and productive ecosystems, also essential for coastal protection, providing economic goods and attracting tourists. During the last decades, a series of hurricanes, diseases and bleaching events have taken their toll among reefs throughout the Caribbean. Today, many of those reefs have changed from being once dominated by stony corals―the builders of the reef itself―to places where coral cover is low and macro algae, sponges and soft coral sprout. This process is called 'phase shift'. Further stressed by overfishing, pollution and rising seawater temperature, some corals do not produce offspring anymore. Without corals, reefs and their inhabitants will disappear within a few decades.
At the Unidad Academica de Sistemas Arrecifales ('the Reef Systems Academic Unit”, UASA), a satellite campus of UNAM (the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) in Puerto Morelos, the headquarters of a unique project is located. Partners from several institutions, organizations and authorities, national and international ones, work together to give coral reefs a future: Project Mexico. This pilot project aims at studying how to implement larger scale restoration by taking advantage of corals' sexual propagation.