Facilitating the facilitators: Advancing coral reef restoration using the services of natural reef inhabitants

Motivation

Despite the evident services coral reefs provide, failing local management and global climate change are rapidly annihilating these beautiful ecosystems. To restore reefs, coral is maricultured in nurseries and outplanted onto degraded reefs to kick-start recovery (coral gardening). However, coral gardening is often inefficient and could be optimized by using biological assistance to: (1) reduce cleaning time in nurseries by facilitating grazing by herbivores, (2) improve performance of outplanted corals by reducing competition with other benthic life forms and (3) reduce coral predation by facilitating corallivore predators.

Research questions

  • RQ1: What are key herbivores and is their grazing associated with reef condition?
  • RQ2: What are key corallivores and is their impact associated with reef condition?
  • RQ3: Can the local reef-bound fish community facilitate coral mariculture?
  • RQ4: How can artificial reefs be optimized to accommodate grazers and reduce corallivores?

Method

The research questions are investigated by surveying healthy and degraded coral reefs (RQ1 & RQ2), as well as by using field experiments manipulating fish and invertebrate access to coral nurseries (RQ3) and artificial reefs (RQ4). All research is performed in Shimoni, southern Kenya.

Publications

Monitoring the biological interactions with culutred corals and various artificial reef types
Monitoring the biological interactions with culutred corals and various artificial reef types

Quantifying predation on coral colonies
Quantifying predation on coral colonies