Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - REEFRES (Developing ubiquitous restoration practices for Indo-Pacific reefs)

Coral reefs are among the most diverse and complex ecosystems on earth; they hold significant economic value for hundreds of millions of people, whose livelihood relies on their exploitation. However, many reefs are continuously degrading due to intensive human activities and cumulative indirect anthropogenic impacts. The REEFRES project aimed to develop common active protocols for the restoration of coral reefs, with an emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region. More specifically, the objectives of the project were to:
1. establish underwater coral nurseries adapted to different Indo-Pacific reef localities;
2. develop ubiquitous protocols for nubbin and spat usage in reef restoration;
3. develop novel protocols, focusing on three-dimensional (3D) structures in new colonies, for reef restoration;
4. initiate and assess reef restoration by using different coral sources at degraded locations;
5. disseminate knowledge and technology to Asian partners through a series of targeted activities.

Coral branches that were transplanted in different areas were evaluated as a restoration tool over a three-year timeframe. The results were compared to those obtained using alternative restoration practices, such as transplanting nubbins rather than entire branches, or stabilising rubble substrates with natural fibre nets to enhance coral recruitment. In addition, various wild coral species were analysed to determine those that could provide small colony segments for the restoration of large areas after disturbances. It transpired that rapid self-attachment was probably not the most important selection criterion, since it was not necessarily related to colonies' survival.

On the other hand, ex situ protocols for the improved maintenance of coral nubbins and spats were established, and the cultivated organisms were compared to the wild species in terms of their response to light, water quality, temperature and feeding. The potential to use transplanted nubbins, either cultivated or wild, as a tool for rehabilitation was thoroughly evaluated, along with the efficacy of larval recruitment on artificial and natural substrata.

Furthermore, the 3D structures of growing fragments were examined in detail, since understanding the rules of architectural complexity of branching coral species was one of the most fundamental subjects in developmental biology, important for coral farming and reef restoration. Finally, techniques of increasing the effectiveness of different methods for coral rehabilitation and transplantation were developed.

The acquired knowledge was disseminated to the scientific community using numerous paths, which included publications, participation in national and international events, workshops' organisation and involvement of young scientists in the project activities. Attempts to effectively communicate the developed techniques to local communities were also undertaken, in order to increase their potential for reef management.

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