Restoration Works

Coral Reef Restoration

Beauty and Brawn: Coral Reefs Have it All

To the long list of benefits that coral reefs provide to the world – from fisheries production to sheer beauty – add coastal protection from ocean waves. Conservancy scientists recently contributed to a new study in Nature Communications that shows that intact coral reefs reduce wave energy by 97 percent and wave height by 84 percent.

What does this mean? It means we have at least 100 million more reasons to protect and restore coral reefs. About 100 million people live within less than 10 kilometers from a coral reef and less than 10 meters above sea level. They receive substantial benefits from the reefs — not the least of which is reducing risks from strong waves and storms.

The Conservancy has a long history of successful coral restoration, from the Florida Keys to the Coral Triangle. In Hawaii, we’ve partnered with NOAA on what we think is one of the most unusual, innovative and effective coral restoration projects in the world. 

At work in Kane’ohe Bay Hawaii

Kāne‘ohe Bay is O'ahu's largest and most beautiful bay. Traditionally, it was home to some of the highest numbers and greatest diversity of fish and corals on O‘ahu. But over time these populations have plummeted, in large part due to the threats posed by invasive algae, overharvesting and land-based sources of pollution. 

Invasive algae were introduced into the bay for aquaculture about 30 years ago. Fed by nutrient-rich sediment, and without healthy populations of native plant-eating fish and sea urchins to keep them in check, they quickly spread. Today, they form thick, tangled mats that are destroying the bay’s ecology and turning its reefs into an algae-smothered wasteland.

The Conservancy and partners developed an innovative approach to the problem: Super Suckers. True to their name, the Super Suckers are giant, barge-mounted vacuum cleaners that hoover invasive algae off the reef. For Kāne‘ohe Bay, the Super Suckers are a game changer: over 250,000 pounds of invasive algae have been removed from more than 20 acres of reef. The goal is to clear the entire north end of the bay of the worst invasive algae by 2015. 

Nursing Corals to Health in Florida and USVI

Five miles off the coast of the Florida Keys, rows and rows of concrete blocks sit in what looks like a giant chess competition on the ocean floor. Atop each block rests a pedestal, and atop each pedestal sits a pinkie-sized piece of Acropora cervicornus – or staghorn coral. 

This innovative nursery and restoration strategy was mostly a theory a decade ago – could corals be grown and transplanted successfully?     

In partnership with NOAA, The Nature Conservancy and our restoration partners have grown tens of thousands of staghorn and elkhorn corals in nurseries along the Florida Keys and in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since 2004, a total of over 14,000 corals have been outplanted to site in waters around Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of the largest restoration project of its kind.

Nature Conservancy: The Coral Nursery


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