Quirks & Quarks

Re-planting a Coral Reef

To re-establish reefs damaged by coral bleaching, scientists raise heat-tolerant coral "seedlings" in nurseries and then transplant them on damaged reefs.

An Experiment in rebuilding a reef like a re-planting a forest.

Algae-eating Forktail Rabbitfish "weeding" a coral nursery. (Henry Goelich)
Coral bleaching caused by unusually warm waters is becoming an increasing threat to productive and important coral reef ecosystems around the world, and is expected to get even worse as the climate warms. In an attempt to help these ecosystems recover, scientists are now experimenting with restoring devastated reefs by re-planting reefs, much the way we'd re-plant a clear-cut forest in Canada.

In the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres, a marine ecologist, and Chief Scientist for the Reef Rescuers Program for the NGO Nature Seychelles, and a research associate with the Smithsonian Institution, and her colleagues, have been working on the biggest reef restoration project yet attempted.

Their work involves large scale farming of heat-resistant coral "seedlings" and then transplanting them onto damaged reefs. And among their innovations is recruiting fish to "weed" their coral nurseries.

Related Links

- Paper in The African Journal of Marine Sciences
Paper in PeerJ
- Nature Seychelles - Reef Restoration Project
Science Magazine news story