Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Sowing Corals:  A New Approach Paves the Way for Large-Scale Coral Reef Restoration

Innovative sowing approach minimizes costs and time required for outplanting corals.

A Secore diver with a tray of Seeding Units that will be outplanted onto a reef in the waters of Curacao soon. (Credit: Secore International / Benjamin Mueller) Click to Enlarge.
The troubling loss of coral reefs worldwide has prompted scientists and conservationists to assist the reefs' recovery through active restoration approaches.  Transplanting corals on degraded reefs aims at increasing coral cover and subsequently promoting structural habitats.  Until now, actual restoration has been done manually by divers, who had to attach each coral, whether a fragment or a coral recruit settled on a substrate, individually.

Today, reef degradation occurs at a scale of hundreds and thousands of square kilometers.  In contrast, current restoration activities are usually less than one hectare in scale.  These efforts are limited by the fact that only labor-intensive, and therefore costly, techniques are currently available. "If we want restoration to play a more meaningful role in coral reef conservation, we need to think in new directions.  Our sowing approach is an important step towards reaching this goal since it will allow the handling of large numbers of corals in a very short amount of time at significantly lower costs", says Dr. Dirk Petersen, project lead and Executive Director of SECORE International.

In the sowing approach, coral larvae are settled on specifically designed substrates that are self-stabilized and attach to the reef via natural processes.  After a few weeks to months these so-called "Seeding Units" (i.e., substrates together with initial coral polyps) are sown on the reef by simply wedging them in crevices rather than requiring manual attachment.  Until today, transplanting for instance 10,000 individual corals on one hectare using common methods requires several hundred to a few thousand person-hours.  "Sowing the same number of corals could be achieved in less than 50 person-hours, a time saving of over 90 percent.  Additionally, material costs could be reduced up to one third, representing a substantial advance for future restoration work", says SECORE's Research Director Dr. Margaret Miller.

Read more at Sowing Corals:  A New Approach Paves the Way for Large-Scale Coral Reef Restoration

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