Tropical coral reefs are complex and highly diverse ecosystems that
support thousands upon thousands of species of life...once lost or
damaged, they cannot be restored to their original condition.
Conserving and protecting our world's reef ecosystems is the only
"true" way to protect these important global assets.
That said, there are a number of ways that we can work to "restore" some of the original functions of coral reefs when they are lost or damaged.
10 Steps for restoring coral reef functions...
1) Protection and Conservation: Sometimes, reefs just need to be left alone to recover from human impacts. Designating and protecting al reef as a marine protected area can have restorative effects. There are a host of governmental and non-governmental organizations actively working to conserve coral reefs...support them.
2) Restoration of Water Quality: Water quality has been deteriorating worldwide and is one of the main causes of decline of function in coral reef ecosystems. There are a wide range of activities from stopping point sources of pollution to providing habitat for filter feeders that can be used to improve water quality near coral reefs. The first step is to identify water quality issues, then work to bring back, as closely as possible, water quality to its natural state.
3) Active Management: Reefs can recover more fully and faster when they are actively managed. This may require decisions such as installation of mooring buoys, fishing regulations, enforcement of environmental laws, etc.
4) Restoration of Habitat Complexity: In the case of coral reefs that have been destroyed by storms, ship groundings or other loss of complex hard substrate, designed artificial reef modules can be used both to provide a suitable base for the hard corals to recruit onto for natural recovery and to provide habitat for fish and other life that need habitat complexity for survival. Advanced designed artificial reefs can incorporate a variety of special features such as larval recruitment aids for fish or lobster, fish spawning pinnacles, special surface textures to enhance coral settlement, and can be built in a variety of sizes, layout patterns, etc. to best mimic the reef that was lost.
5) Rescue of Imperiled Corals. In some cases, it is possible to predict the death of coral colonies or other marine life such as in the case of impending construction or other known threats. These corals can be transplanted to a safe area, or they can be propagated into many more new colonies. Usually in coral rescues it is advisable to propagate enough individual fragments from each colony so that if a coral is lost in transportation or replanting then the genetics of the colony can still be retained from propagates.
6) Recovery of Interconnected Systems: In many cases, coral reefs can loose function because adjacent habitat which is interconnected with the reef is lost or damaged. Mangrove systems (and in particular Red Mangroves) provide an interconnected "nursery" grounds for many coral reef species. Therefore, they can be replanted in areas where they have been lost or in areas suitable for reef health. Sea grasses are also often threatened near reefs and have similar interconnections with reefs.
7) Propagation and Planting Corals: In some cases, corals need to be re-planted to have a recovery. There may be reasons why coral larval are unable to settle in an area or the speed at which recovery takes place may not be fast enough by natural growth to recover the coral reef system. The Reef Ball Foundation has developed a special team of volunteer experts that can train local volunteers to propagate and plant corals with a high level of success (usually 80-100% survival of fragments with 100% survival of coral colony genetics). The methods used are less expensive and less labor intensive than previously used methods. For example, over 10,000 coral colonies were propagated and transplanted in a 14 day period using 15 volunteers in our most recent project.
8)Monitoring & Education: Reefs can recover better when people are educated about the importance of reefs and when people have good facts to be able to make better management decisions. There are a large variety of monitoring and educational programs that can aid the recovery reef systems. Active monitoring programs can, for example, find and treat coral diseases or alert managers to new threats.
9) Engage the Scientists: Scientists are constantly studying new methods and techniques to aid our coral reef systems. In working with scientists, we can advance our knowledge and understanding of how reef systems function to aid in their recovery.
10) Take Action: Even though we can't fully restore coral reefs, we can't just give up efforts either...coral reefs are worth protecting and they are worth the efforts to help them recover. If you know of a reef that has been damaged or will be damaged, let us know....there are many ways we can work together to save them.
Cable Laying Biological Optimization Team
Hard Coral Preservation using Genetic Coral Banks Team
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Other Valuable Internal Reef Ball Links
Ball World Mapping System-NEW
-Project Summaries, News, Coordinates, Coordinators, Contractors, ETC by Location!
Reef Transplant Notes
-Identified Hard Coral Diseases (The Coral Disease Page) offline