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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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Host and Symbionts in Pocillopora damicornis Larvae Display Different Transcriptomic Responses to Ocean Acidification and Warming

Abstract: As global ocean change progresses, reef-building corals and their early life history stages will rely on physiological plasticity to tolerate new environmental conditions. Larvae from brooding coral species contain algal symbionts upon release, which assist with the energy requirements of dispersal and metamorphosis. Global ocean change threatens the success of larval dispersal and settlement by challenging the performance of the larvae and of the symbiosis. In this study, larvae of the reef-building coral Pocillopora damicornis were exposed to elevated pCO2 and temperature to examine the performance of the coral and its symbionts in situ and better understand the mechanisms of physiological plasticity and stress tolerance in response to multiple stressors. We generated a de novo holobiont transcriptome containing coral host and algal symbiont transcripts and bioinformatically filtered the assembly into host and symbiont components for downstream analyses. Seventeen coral genes were differentially expressed in response to the combined effects of pCO2 and temperature. In the symbiont, 89 genes were differentially expressed in response to pCO2. Our results indicate that many of the whole-organism (holobiont) responses previously observed for P. damicornis larvae in scenarios of ocean acidification and warming may reflect the physiological capacity of larvae to cope with the environmental changes without expressing additional protective mechanisms. At the holobiont level, the results suggest that the responses of symbionts to future ocean conditions could play a large role in shaping success of coral larval stages.

Authors: E. B. Rivest, M. W. Kelly, M. B. DeBiasse, G. E. Hofmann

 

Year: 2018

View the full article here

Frontiers in Marine Science 5: doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00186

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Interspecific Hybridization May Provide Novel Opportunities for Coral Reef Restoration

Abstract: Climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances have created an era characterized by the inability of most ecosystems to maintain their original, pristine states, the Anthropocene. Investigating new and innovative strategies that may facilitate ecosystem restoration is thus becoming increasingly important, particularly for coral reefs around the globe which are deteriorating at an alarming rate. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lost half its coral cover between 1985 and 2012, and experienced back-to-back heat-induced mass bleaching events and high coral mortality in 2016 and 2017. Here we investigate the efficacy of interspecific hybridization as a tool to develop coral stock with enhanced climate resilience. We crossed two Acropora species pairs from the GBR and examined several phenotypic traits over 28 weeks of exposure to ambient and elevated temperature and pCO2. While elevated temperature and pCO2 conditions negatively affected size and survival of both purebreds and hybrids, higher survival and larger recruit size were observed in some of the hybrid offspring groups under both ambient and elevated conditions. Further, interspecific hybrids had high fertilization rates, normal embryonic development, and similar Symbiodinium uptake and photochemical efficiency as purebred offspring. While the fitness of these hybrids in the field and their reproductive and backcrossing potential remain to be investigated, current findings provide proof-of-concept that interspecific hybridization may produce genotypes with enhanced climate resilience, and has the potential to increase the success of coral reef restoration initiatives.

Authors: Chan, W. Y., L. M. Peplow, P. Menéndez, A. A. Hoffmann, and M. J. H. van Oppen
Year: 2018
View the article here

Frontiers in Marine Science 5: doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00160

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Raising the Voices of Pacific Island Women to Inform Climate Adaptation Policies

A new paper highlights the critical role that Pacific Island women are playing in climate adaptation and provides guidance for governments, NGOs, and development agencies on how to incorporate the needs and perspectives of women in climate policies and projects. Based on qualitative data from Pacific women leaders in conservation, development, and climate adaptation policies, key priorities to support climate adaptation include: (1) increased recognition for the importance of traditional knowledge; (2) greater support for local women’s groups, including strategic planning and training to access climate finance mechanisms; and (3) climate policies that consider alternative metrics for women’s empowerment and inclusion, formalize women’s land rights, and provide land for climate refugees. The authors emphasize the need for research, programs, and policies that recognize the importance of traditional knowledge in climate adaptation strategies. Bringing women and vulnerable groups into climate adaptation decision-making is critical to support sustainable and resilient communities and to avoid exacerbating existing gender-inequalities.

Author: Mcleod, E., S. Arora-Jonsson, YJ. Masuda, M. Bruton-Adams, C.O. Emaurois, B. Gorong, Berna C.J. Hudlow, R. James, H. Kuhlken, B. Masike-Liri, E. Musrasrik-Carl, A. Otzelberger, K. Relang, B.M. Reyuw, B.  Sigrah, C. Stinnett, J. Tellei, and L. Whitford
Year: 2018
View Abstract

Marine Policy 93: 10.1016/j.marpol.2018.03.011.

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Estimating Nearshore Coral Reef-Associated Fisheries Production from the Main Hawaiian Islands

Abstract: Currently, information on nearshore reef-associated fisheries is frequently disparate or incomplete, creating a challenge for effective management. This study utilized an existing non-commercial fishery dataset from Hawaiʻi, covering the period 2004-13, to estimate a variety of fundamental fishery parameters, including participation, effort, gear use, and catch per unit effort. We then used those data to reconstruct total catches per island. Non-commercial fisheries in this case comprise recreational, subsistence, and cultural harvest, which may be exchanged, but are not sold. By combining those data with reported commercial catch data, we estimated annual catch of nearshore reef-associated fisheries in the main Hawaiian Islands over the study period to be 1,167,758 ± 43,059 kg year-1 (mean ± standard error). Average annual commercial reef fish catch over the same time period – 184,911 kg year-1 – was 16% of the total catch, but that proportion varied greatly among islands, ranging from 23% on Oʻahu to 5% on Molokaʻi. These results emphasize the importance of reef fishing in Hawaiʻi for reasons beyond commerce, such as food security and cultural practice, and highlight the large differences in fishing practices across the Hawaiian Islands

Authors: Mccoy, K. S., I.D. Williams, A.M. Friedlander, H. Ma, L. Teneva, and J.N. Kittinger
Year: 2018
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PLoS ONE 13(4): e0195840. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195840

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Timing of Mass Spawning in Corals: Potential Influence of the Coincidence of Lunar Factors and Associated Changes in Atmospheric Pressure From Northern and Southern Hemisphere Case Studies

Abstract: Synchronised multispecies mass spawning events are striking features of reproduction in corals. This synchronous gamete release of thousands of animals over vast stretches of reef is thought to be cued by rhythms of the Moon. However, the mechanisms are not fully understood. We propose an explanation that may contribute to understanding this mechanism, that spawning is triggered by the coincidence of two factors, each in different lunar rhythms. We investigate this proposal in case studies using seven years of coral spawning data from two locations: Kochi, Japan and Lizard Island, Australia. Our calculations show that a feature in a lunar synodic rhythm (the third quarter) will synchronise with a feature in a lunar non-synodic rhythm (the zero declination) usually once, although occasionally twice in a year. Supported by data on the date of spawning from the two locations, we suggest that this coincidence of lunar factors exerts an important influence on the timing of annual mass spawning in corals. This coincidence may be associated with low atmospheric pressure. Spawning at the time of the third lunar quarter may favour fertilisation success due to the reduced currents during neap tides associated with the lower gravitational pressure of the lunar quarters.

Author: Wolstenholme, J., Y. Nozawa, M. Byrne, and W. Burke
Year: 2018
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Email for the full article: resilience@tnc.org
Invertebrate Reproduction & Development. doi:10.1080/07924259.2018.1434245

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Plastic Waste Associated With Disease On Coral Reefs

Abstract: Plastic waste can promote microbial colonization by pathogens implicated in outbreaks of disease in the ocean. We assessed the influence of plastic waste on disease risk in 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. The likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic. Structurally complex corals are eight times more likely to be affected by plastic, suggesting that microhabitats for reef-associated organisms and valuable fisheries will be disproportionately affected. Plastic levels on coral reefs correspond to estimates of terrestrial mismanaged plastic waste entering the ocean. We estimate that 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific and project this number to increase 40% by 2025. Plastic waste management is critical for reducing diseases that threaten ecosystem health and human livelihoods.

Author: Lamb, J. B., B.L. Willis, E.A. Fiorenza, C.S. Couch, R. Howard, D.N. Rader, D. Harvell
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Email for the full article: resilience@tnc.org
Science 359(6374).

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Molecular Characterization of Larval Development from Fertilization to Metamorphosis In a Reef-building Coral.

Abstract: Background- Molecular mechanisms underlying coral larval competence, the ability of larvae to respond to settlement cues, determine their dispersal potential and are potential targets of natural selection. Here, we profiled competence, fluorescence and genome-wide gene expression in embryos and larvae of the reef-building coral Acropora millepora daily throughout 12 days post-fertilization. Results- Gene expression associated with competence was positively correlated with transcriptomic response to the natural settlement cue, confirming that mature coral larvae are “primed” for settlement. Rise of competence through development was accompanied by up-regulation of sensory and signal transduction genes such as ion channels, genes involved in neuropeptide signaling, and G-protein coupled receptor (GPCRs). A drug screen targeting components of GPCR signaling pathways confirmed a role in larval settlement behavior and metamorphosis. Conclusions- These results gives insight into the molecular complexity underlying these transitions and reveals receptors and pathways that, if altered by changing environments, could affect dispersal capabilities of reef-building corals. In addition, this dataset provides a toolkit for asking broad questions about sensory capacity in multicellular animals and the evolution of development.

Author: Strader, M.E., G.V. Aglyamova, M.V Matz
Year: 2018
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Email for the full article: resilience@tnc.org
BMC Genomics 19(1). doi:10.1186/s12864-017-4392-0

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