Assessing an abridged nursery phase for slow growing corals used in coral restoration
dela Cruz, DW, Rinkevich, B, Gomez, ED & Yap, HT 2015, 'Assessing an abridged nursery phase for slow growing corals used in coral restoration', Ecological Engineering, vol. 84, pp. 408-415.
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The continued decline of coral reefs worldwide due to natural and anthropogenic drivers necessitates the development of effective restoration schemes. Two of the approaches frequently used nowadays are (1) the direct transplantation of coral fragments/colonies to degraded reefs; and (2) the “coral gardening” approach, which supports coral transplantation only following an intermediate nursery phase, where corals are farmed until reaching suitable sizes. Both approaches are evaluated for the quality of transplanted coral material, employing two field experiments on fragments fromEchinopora lamellosa and Merulina scabricula, non-branching, slow growing coral species (Scleractinia) commonly residing in the reef of Bolinao, Pangasinan, northwestern Philippines. Each experiment included an abridged (shortened) nursery phase of 1 year. The first experiment assessed the performance of two newly collected groups of coral fragments, one reared in situ within a coral nursery and the second directly transplanted to coral-denuded bommies. The second experiment evaluated the post-transplantation performance of nursery-reared colonies against similar-sized freshly collected coral fragments, both transplanted onto denuded bommies. Growth rate (buoyant weight and size increments), survivorship and attachment were compared within each experiment. While in the first experiment, clear patterns for enhanced growth, survivorship and attachment rates were recorded in the nursery farmed fragments as compared to directly transplanted nubbins, no such differences were found between the two coral groups in the second experiment, indicating that short-term nursery farming of slow growing corals does not improve their post-transplantation performance. However, since growth and survivorship during the nursery phase are enhanced, an abridged nursery farming stage may serve as an ecological engineering tool for the production of augmented numbers of coral material for transplantation. Follow-up studies such as testing the fragment size along with nursery time for various coral species of different growth patterns are indispensable for the improvement of the “coral gardening” protocols.