Caribbean reefs being restored with 'coral gardening'

Thursday, August 10, 2017

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A new study published in the journal Coral Reefs says “coral gardening” which involves planting fragments of nursery raised coral on reefs in the wild to replenish depleted coral colonies, is restoring the staghorn coral reef systems in the Caribbean.

The study, published June, examines the successful restoration efforts in waters near Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Honduras and Puerto Rico.

The study says researchers collected data on the survival and productivity of thousands of cervicornis colonies within six different geographical regions in order to develop benchmarks that can be used to assess coral reef restoration efforts and their impacts on the overall ecosystem.

According to the publication, fragments of nursery-raised coral on reefs being used to replenish depleted coral colonies is playing a key role in the restoration of staghorn coral reef systems in the Caribbean — and might just help inform strategies to ensure the long-term survival of the world's coral reefs in the future.

The researchers behind the study — a team led by scientists with the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami (UM) — say they found that current restoration methods do not cause excessive damage to donor colonies and that once the coral fragments are planted back out in the wild, known as being “outplanted,” they behave just like wild colonies.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature says the staghorn coral is particularly susceptible to bleaching and populations have declined more than 80 per cent over the past 30 years due to higher incidence of disease and the impacts of global warming, especially higher ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.

The species was listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2006 and is currently listed as critically endangered.

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