Coral gardening, the process of replanting laboratory-raised coral fragments to restore coral populations, is proving to benefit Caribbean reefs, according to a new study from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
The school said the research had important implications for the long-term survival of reefs worldwide, which have been in global decline.
“Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective,” said UM Rosenstiel school coral biologist Stephanie Schopmeyer, the lead author of the study. “Healthy coral reefs are essential to our everyday life and successful coral restoration has been proven as a recovery tool for lost coastal resources.”
The study examined restoration success during the first two years of work at coral restorations sites in Florida and in Puerto Rico.
According to the findings, “current restoration methods are not causing excess damage to donor colonies as a result of removing coral tissue to propagate new coral in the lab, and that once outplanted, corals behave just as wild colonies do.”
This was the first study to collect baseline coral restoration survival and productivity data at regional scales.
It’s a boon for what has become a growing number of coral restoration projects across the Caribbean, most notably Bonaire’s Coral Restoration Foundation, which recently expanded to Curacao.
“Coral reefs are declining at an alarming rate and coral restoration programs are now considered an essential component to coral conservation and management plan,” said Diego Lirman, UM Rosenstiel School professor of marine biology and ecology and a coauthor of the study. “Our findings provide the necessary scientific benchmarks to evaluate restoration progress moving forward.”