MAE: Habitat restoration

To counterbalance detrimental effects of anthropogenic influences on coral reefs, efforts are taken to restore reefs. Restoration efforts can take the form of rearing coral fragments in nurseries or placing artificial structures to promote benthic and pelagic biodiversity. Another aspect of habitat restoration is the genetic health and resilience of transplanted coral fragments. Marine Animal Ecology works in Kenya, the Dutch Caribbean and the North Sea on various restoration projects.

REEFolution Kenya

The second longest fringing reefs of the world can be found at the eastern coast of Africa, stretching from Somalia to northern Mozambique. The reefs in Kenya are part of this biodiverse system, but currently under threat of overfishing and global climate change. REEFolution Kenya has been founded in 2015 and since then focusses on the restoration of coral reefs by building coral nurseries to grow coral fragments before outplanting them and raising environmental awareness. Projects include:

Biological interactions of corals, fish and artificial reef types. Photo: E. Knoester.
Biological interactions of corals, fish and artificial reef types. Photo: E. Knoester.

Community structures on artificial reefs

Coral cover on Caribbean reefs has been declining severly over the past decades. The loss of three-dimensional structure has cascading detrimental effects on biodiversity structure and function. Artifical reefs can be a solution to the loss of habitat structure and rugosity by providing hard substrate for new life to settle on. A current project aims to test the performance of different types of artificial reef structures. Benthic and fish assemblages are monitored to see differences in biodiversity and function.

Artificial reef structures. Photo: A. Hylkema.
Artificial reef structures. Photo: A. Hylkema.

North Sea vitalization

Biogenic reefs (hard structures formed by various organisms) are vital components of marine ecosystems. However, many of those reefs are disappearing. The North Sea is one example of an area with disappearing reefs as it used to harbor dense oyster reefs but lost them due to overharvesting and bottom disturbance by trawling. ReVIFES (North Sea Reef Vitalization For Ecosystem Services) aims to restore reefs by developing (1) viable techniques for successful hatchery cultivation and settlement of oysters, and (2) outplacement systems for hard and soft substrates.

Oyster collector. Photo: Dr. O. Bos.
Oyster collector. Photo: Dr. O. Bos.

Techniques used & Implications

To study effects of habitat restoration, Marine Animal Ecology performs field monitoring and field, mesocosm and lab experiments. Habitat restoration directly links to ecosystem conservation, which results in higher climate resilience.