Global coral reef restoration effort launches in the Caribbean

by    Carin    27th April 2017
Photo by ©Paul A. Selvaggio
Spawning elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, an endangered Caribbean key species, photo Paul Selvaggio
2 Caribbean reef site Paul Selvaggio
Caribbean reef site, Eastpoint Curaçao, photo Paul Selvaggio
3 dead reef Guam Mike McCue
Dead reef on Guam, photo Mike McCue
4 coral bleaching Carin Jantzen
Freshly bleached corals, Andaman Sea, Thailand, photo Carin Jantzen
5 collecting coral spawn Reef Patrol
Collecting spawn of endangered elkhorns to raise new corals, photo Reef Patrol
6 preconditioning coral seeding units II Paul Selvaggio
Preconditioning 'coral seeding units', ready to be settle on by coral larvae, photo Paul Selvaggio
7 workshop Curacao 2016 team and pools Paul Selvaggio
Workshop team, Curaçao 2016, in front of built floating devices to raise corals, so-called pools, photo Paul Selvaggio
8 outplanted elkhon coral II Paul Selvaggio
Outplanted elkhorn coral, a five years old and already mature, raised with sexual coral restoration approach, photo Paul Selvaggio
9 seeding corals along the line Sandra Mendoza Quiroz
Seeding new corals along the line, scientific pilot study Project Mexico with UNAM, photo Sandra Mendoza Quiroz

With
the Global Coral Restoration Project, SECORE
International, the California Academy of Sciences and The Nature
Conservancy seal their commitment to help
rehabilitate coral reefs and preserve them for future generations.
This project aims to study and apply coral restoration techniques and
practices on a larger scale, integrating coordinated conservation,
education and outreach efforts. By seeding
reefs with sexually
reproduced coral offspring, this project aims to help maintain
corals' genetic diversity which in turn maximizes their ability to
adapt to future conditions.
Furthermore, working with sexual coral restoration has the great
potential to produce huge numbers of coral offspring from one coral
spawning event. The
project includes training for
partners from island nations and territories, including organizations
capable of translating their efforts into local management plans that
support this large-scale coral restoration initiative. The Global
Coral Restoration Project starts in the Caribbean and is planned to
expand into the Pacific region after its initial phase.

“Alarmed
by the catastrophic state of their coral reefs, people have made
various attempts to restore coral cover with restoration measures,”
says Dr. Dirk Petersen, Executive Director and Founder of SECORE.
“However, outcomes have often been short-lived and lacked an
integrated concept. Moreover, the true capabilities of coral
restoration have not been exhausted yet. With our joint Global Coral
Restoration Project we aim at changing that.”


A
Caribbean start

Coral
reefs are hotspots of diversity that host countless plants and
animals. They are a source of livelihood for millions of people and
function as essential coastal protection against the frequent
tropical storms. Today, coral reefs are on the decline worldwide and
doomsday scenarios of their fate have been spreading broadly in the
media. In the Caribbean, coral reefs have been seriously degrading
over the last three decades, with hurricanes, disease outbreaks and
mass die-offs taking their toll. Key reef-building species, such as
the elkhorn and staghorn corals, are critically endangered―one
focus of this collaborative project is to assist in the
rehabilitation of those species.

The
first phase of the Global Coral Restoration Project will focus on the
Caribbean.
Scientists
of the three key-partner organizations have gathered profound
knowledge about coral reproduction and how to restore and conserve
corals of the Caribbean
, and plan to use a wide array of tools to
implement coral restoration on largerscales.

“The
Nature Conservancy has been working throughout the Caribbean for over
40 years, helping to establish millions of acres of marine protected
areas and learning from multiple coral restoration efforts including
our own,” says Dr. Luis Solorzano, Executive Director Caribbean
Division, The Nature Conservancy. “Through this collaboration with
SECORE and the California Academy of Sciences, we will accelerate the
science and innovation required for scaling up coral restoration
efforts.
Our
efforts can help to ensure healthy and resilient Caribbean reefs.”

Within
the frame of the Global Coral Restoration Project,
hands-on practices will be shared with local stakeholders, in turn
enabling a more comprehensive approach to assist in the
rehabilitation and active restoration of coral reefs. During the past
few years, the project partners have studied how to raise large
numbers of delicate coral larvae of several Caribbean species,
practiced less labor-intensive ways of seeding coral recruits on
reefs, developed protocols to choose suitable restoration sites and
learned how to efficiently monitor ongoing restoration success.

How
to restore reefs on larger scales

Over
the last decade, SECORE and partners have pioneered the study of
sexual coral restoration applications, a relatively young research
discipline. Taking advantage of the corals' sexual reproduction has
the potential of producing huge numbers of genetically unique coral
recruits—millions, if done correctly. Those coral recruits could be
raised from one spawning event: coral gametes are collected in the
wild or at the laboratory and fertilized in
vitro
.
The resulting larvae are cared for and provided with settlement
substrates when they are ready to metamorphose into a coral polyp.

SECORE
is currently developing and testing techniques to raise and handle
large amounts of coral offspring. The time and manpower required to
handle coral offspring and plant them onto wild reefs often limit
restoration efforts. Accordingly, SECORE and partners have designed
coral settlement substrates that self-attach to the reefs, enabling
seeding coral recruits to join the reef in meaningful numbers. SECORE
and partners are currently conducting pilot projects for larger-scale
sexual coral restoration on Curaçao and in Mexico.

Education
and sharing knowledge

Through
this partnership, three capacity-building centers will be established
in the Caribbean: in Mexico, Curacao, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. At
each location, a local team of experts will test and refine sexual
reproduction techniques, and share these through capacity-building
trainings and workshops with coral reef practitioners around the
world. In addition, local communities will be actively involved in
the process, providing local
partners with outreach tools to facilitate community engagement.
Integrating the communities that are impacted by this work is
critical to making any restoration and conservation efforts
successful in the long-term.

“Our
capacity building centers will foster research and technology
development, exchange of knowledge and expertise, and provide
training courses and outreach”, says Dirk Petersen. “We will host
annual training workshops for Caribbean stakeholders. The centers
will function as bases to expand our network and to guide local
restoration practitioners who have been fighting the decline of their
reefs on their own. By joining forces and coordinating efforts in
many places around the Caribbean, we can make a real change for the
survival of coral reefs.”

The
first task of the new alliance will be the kick-off workshop entitled
“New techniques for coral restoration in the Caribbean” on
Curaçao this May. Representatives of stakeholders throughout the
Caribbean and scientists from various disciplines will meet to learn
hands-on practices—including collecting and fertilizing coral
gametes and practicing the handling of larvae to be seeded onto
degraded reefs—and share theoretical background knowledge. Each
workshop will build on the last, incorporating lessons learned and
refining the techniques that enable lasting, larger-scale coral
restoration.

You will find the original press release here!

SECORE
International
is a coral conservation
and restoration organization, based in USA and EU that works in a
network of scientists, aquarium professionals and partners around the
globe to give coral reefs a future.

The
California Academy of Sciences
is a
scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring,
explaining and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s
Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium,
and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in
scientific research and education.

The
Nature Conservancy
is
a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands
and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, The Nature
Conservancy is operating in more than 65 countries, using a
collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments,
the private sector, and other partners.

Written by
Carin
Date
27th April 2017
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