Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


REEFRES — Result In Brief

Project ID: 510657
Funded under: FP6-INCO
Country: Israel

Coral gardening comes to life

A European project has developed new techniques to restore the world's damaged coral reefs.
Coral gardening comes to life
Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Although they occupy a very small percentage of the ocean surface, less than 1 %, they provide a habitat for some 25 % of marine species.

Human activities directly and indirectly continue to take their toll causing the degradation of reefs. Fishing, tourist activities, global warming, increased ultraviolet radiation from ozone depletion and increased carbon dioxide (CO2) all contribute to the mass destruction of coral reefs.

Restoration of coral reefs normally involves direct coral transplantation but a European initiative has researched the implementation of other methods to replace large stretches of damaged coral. The 'Developing ubiquitous restoration practices for Indo-Pacific reefs' (Reefres) project aimed overall to establish underwater coral nurseries adapted to different Indo-Pacific areas.

The Reefres scientists investigated methods of coral 'gardening'. Techniques are based on the mariculture of different sizes of coral 'cuttings'. In particular, development of protocols for the use of nubbins, down to the size of a few polyps and spats (baby corals), was explored.

Methods to restore reefs based on three-dimensional (3D) structures in new colonies were also investigated. The researchers compared methods for initiation and assessment of reef restoration.

Over a three-year time frame, the progress of transplanted coral branches was contrasted with alternative means such as using nubbins or stabilising rubble substrates with fibre nets to encourage coral recruitment. The team also reviewed various wild coral species for their ability to provide small colony segments for restoration of large areas.

Environmental factors that promoted maintenance of nubbins and spats were examined including response to light, water quality, temperature and feeding. Efficacy of larval recruitment on natural and artificial substrates was put on trial as well as the architecture of branching, perhaps one of the most fundamental factors in reef restoration.

Details of the coral restoration techniques have been disseminated worldwide through publications, projects and conferences. In particular, Asian partners participated as Indo-Pacific regions of coral were a specific focus of Reefres.

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