Author Archives: reefres

Restoration in the Age of Disease

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September 17, 2018

As Florida faces an unprecedented disease outbreak involving more than half of its coral species, many restoration practitioners and environmental managers are wondering how best to responsibly continue restoration efforts for both affected and unaffected species in the face of disease. Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory and Nova Southeastern University discuss their plans for adapting restoration to help answer disease-related questions and prepare for future restoration efforts. This Coral Restoration Consortium webinar features three presentations followed by a panel Q&A session.

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Coral Restoration using Larval Propagation in the Philippines & Australia

Coral growth on a reef in the Philippines after four years of the project. Photo @ Peter Harrison, Southern Cross University

Coral growth on a reef in the Philippines after four years of the project. Photo @ Peter Harrison, Southern Cross University

Listen to a new podcast interview with Dr. Peter Harrison, Director of the Marine Ecology Research Center at Southern Cross University about his mass larval propagation and restoration projects in the Philippines and Australia. We got a chance to sit down with Dr. Harrison during the Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium in Cairns, Australia and ask about the methods he’s used for restoration, what has led to success in his projects, and advice for managers and practitioners interested in starting restoration projects.

Listen to the interview

Interview Transcript
Reef Resilience (RR): Hi everyone! Today, Reef Resilience is interviewing Dr. Peter Harrison, Director of the Marine Ecology Research Center at Southern Cross University about his coral restoration efforts in the Indo-Pacific. Peter, can you briefly describe the coral restoration projects that you’ve done to date in the Philippines – for instance the kinds of methods you’ve used and partners that you’ve worked with to do this project?

Peter Harrison (PH): So what we’ve done so far is eight successful coral larval restoration projects, five in the Philippines and three on the Great Barrier Reef. In the Philippines we’ve been working for the last five years, and what we’re doing is capturing coral spawn from healthy corals, rearing it, and so we’re getting high rates of fertilization, lots of larval development, and raising millions of larvae each year. Then we’re putting those larvae directly back on the reef systems. So our work in larval propagation is a bit different to most other research groups around the world we’re focusing on trying to get the maximum success rates directly on the reef. The interesting thing about the Philippines is these are really highly degraded reef systems – they used to have spectacular coral cover – and with blast fishing over many decades, Crown-of-Thorns outbreaks, bleaching, typhoons, everything thrown at it, the the reef is now moribund and there is no natural recruitment happening at a scale that will help that reef recover naturally. So what we’re doing is catching the last remnants of the healthy populations, breeding millions of coral larvae, and putting them back on the reef, and we’re getting some fantastic results.

RR: That’s great. Actually, my question for you is about your results. Do you think these projects have been successful and what do you think has led to their success?

PH: The project outcomes have been fantastic, as good as we would’ve hoped given how bad these reef systems are, so it offers a little bit of hope for what might do in other regions around the world where really highly degraded reef systems have become the norm on what was really spectacular coral reef environments. So what we’ve done so far is we’ve used a range of different coral species, some fast growing Acropora and some slower growing brain corals, and among the fast growing corals we are getting spectacular results. We’re getting growth that’s occurring so quickly that we’re getting breeding initially after 3 years after the larval settled on the reef, so they’ve grown now up to a half meter in diameter – so really, really fast growth. This last year and a couple of years ago, we captured the spawn from the three corals that we’ve settled as larvae and have grown to breeding size and we put those larvae back into other parts of the reef. Surprisingly, we have even faster growth rates in the second generation of corals and we now have the world’s fastest growth to breeding age of any Acropora in the world, so we’ve got a world record. They’ve become breeding age and size at 2 years. So we’ve closed the life cycle directly on the reef for the first time within 2 years, and even highly degraded systems are amenable to this sort of work.

RR: So you have a lot of experience in this area and have done a lot of work, and I was wondering for our managers if you have any advice for new people that are starting in this field – managers or scientists or practitioners?

PH: Yes, there’s great opportunities. Each reef system is a little bit unique, the circumstances are unique, what sort of resources are available, what condition the reef is in, whether or not it’s still got three-dimensional structure that can provide habitats for coral larvae, if it’s been completely wiped out by major typhoons/cyclone impacts and is stripped bare, then you might need to think about some sort of three-dimensional structure coming back in with some fragmentation studies to slow the movement of water down to allow coral larvae in the future to increase in terms of recruitment. I guess the other key message is that we know that probably 95% of the so-called coral restoration projects have relied on fragmentation, and we’ve seen relatively few of those truly successful. The larger scale nursery processes, even though they are more expensive, that are working in the Caribbean with endangered Acropora species are a good example of how large-groups, really well-focused, thinking of this over multi-year programs, can actually come up with a meaningful increase in biomass. But we are still operating at small scale, and one of the advantages of the larval restoration approach is theoretically you can scale this up to much large scales than we are currently doing with asexual fragmentation and coral gardening approaches. We’ve got to two 100 meter square patches of reefs that we’ve been dealing with on the Great Barrier Reef and more recently back in the Philippines. My aim now is to build to a half hectare and then 1 hectare areas with this mass larval restoration process and hopefully in the future we’ll be operating at kilometer scales. When we are operating at kilometer scales, you’re really talking about reef restoration as opposed to smaller scale coral restoration.

RR: Well you’ve given us a lot to think about and provided a lot of great information, so thank you so much for sitting down with us today.

PH: You’re very welcome.

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Learning from Reef Restoration Experiences Around the World Webcast

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July 17, 2018

Broadcast live from the Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium in Cairns, Australia, experts from around the globe share lessons learned from years working on coral restoration. From offshore coral nurseries, to restoration mitigation techniques, to climate change adaptation, this presentation session seeks to foster knowledge sharing and exchange between managers and practitioners across the globe.

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Citizen Science to Improve Hawai‘i’s Water Quality

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June 20, 2018

Learn about an innovative citizen science water quality monitoring program in Hawai‘i: Hui O Ka Wai Ola (association of the living waters). This partnership effort was developed to address growing concern with water quality in Maui and explore how citizen science can augment data being collected by the State Department of Health. Comprised of community member volunteers, scientists, supporters, and partner groups, Hui O Ka Wai Ola regularly measures coastal waters for pollutants such as sediment and nutrients that can harm coral reefs and human health, and informs communities and decision-makers when pollutants exceed the State’s limits. Hui O Ka Wai Ola is a partnership effort in collaboration with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health, Clean Water Branch.

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Building Restoration Programs to Withstand Hurricanes: Lessons Learned from Irma and Maria

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February 14, 2018

As coral restoration programs are developed, a great deal of thought goes into site selection and design of nurseries and outplant sites to ensure success. Until this past summer, one of the considerations, “can our sites withstand a direct hit from a hurricane” has been mostly theoretical. Hear experts from Florida and the Caribbean discuss impacts from hurricanes Irma and Maria, what worked and what didn’t, and what they will do in the future to mitigate impacts both to coral nurseries and outplant sites. This Coral Restoration Consortium webinar features six presentations followed by a panel Q&A session. Speakers include: Kemit-Amon Lewis, Shannon Gore, Sean Griffin, Kerry Maxwell, Jessica Levy, and Dalton Hesley. View the webinar presentations.

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Year in Review – 2017

Reflecting on the past year, there has never been a more critical time for effective coral reef management. In June of 2017, the world’s longest and most widespread bleaching event on record ended, with many reefs experiencing significant mortality. To address these – and other – challenges, the Reef Resilience Network continues to empower a global network of marine managers and scientists to improve coral reef management by sharing and implementing cutting-edge resilience science, inspiring greater collaboration, and working with global and regional reef initiatives to roll out guidance and best practices. Based on feedback from our managers, we have led in-person and online trainings, and have added new webinars, case studies, journal summaries, guidebooks, and modules on key topics to our website,, which had over 150,000 visitors this year alone!

We are inspired by the thousands of reef managers, practitioners, and scientists in our Network and beyond, who spend their days working to reduce the threats facing reefs and supporting the necessary policies and programs to help our reefs to recover and thrive. We thank you and look forward and ahead to 2018 – the International Year of the Reef – and are grateful for the renewed attention to one of our world’s most precious resources, our coral reefs. See how we, as a Network, have improved reef management around the world.

RR Year in Review 2017_final

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Strategic Communication Mentored Online Course

Comm AnnJanuary 16 – February 8, 2018

Looking to influence behavior or raise awareness about an issue to advance your conservation efforts? A new Strategic Communication Mentored Online Course can help you communicate effectively to reach your conservation goal! This three-week mentored training, which is only a 6-8 hour time commitment, features hands-on exercises, interactive webinars and quizzes, and guidance from mentors and other managers. We’ve demystified strategic communication and simplified the planning process so you can work on your own project as you learn. This course is free and open to anyone, but is geared toward coral reef managers and practitioners. The course content can be found in the communication module.

Important Dates:

  • December 18 – January 16: Course registration is open. Registration closes January 17
  • January 16: Course orientation and introductory webinar (45 minutes)
  • January 17 – January 24: Complete three self-paced lessons and worksheets on the communication planning process: establish your goal & objectives, assess the context for your efforts, and identify your target audience(s) (~2.5 hours)
  • January 25: Webinar 2 – Review concepts and discussion (45 minutes)
  • January 26 – February 7: Complete four self-paced lessons and worksheets on the communication planning process: make your message matter, identify messengers and tactics, measure your impact, and create a summary of your plan (~3.5 hours)
  • February 8: Webinar 3 – Review concepts, discussion, and course conclusion (30 minutes)
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Assisted Evolution: A Novel Tool to Overcome the Conservation Crisis?

Assisted Evolution Announcement PhotoThis symposium was live streamed as part of the Coral Restoration Consortium webinar series in conjunction with The Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and “The Future Ocean” cluster in Kiel. Speakers shared information on new approaches for the conservation of coral reefs such as assisted colonization and assisted evolution and synthetic biology. View the presentation recordings below.


Welcome and introduction – Marlene Wall, Geomar, Germany

Session 1: Shifting paradigms in conservation: social, public and scientific landscape of conservation genetics
Objective: The aim of session 1 is to (i) discuss new approaches for the conservation of natural environments, such as assisted colonization, assisted evolution and synthetic biology and (ii) introduce the current legal, public and scientific framework of novel methods in conservation.

Session 2: Assisted evolution in corals: Opportunities, applications, challenges, and limitations
Objective: The aim is to introduce how assisted evolution might change our way of restoring natural marine environments. What new tools are available that can improve the selection of environmental stress resistance and be implemented in conservation? What are the promises and perils of such approaches?

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