Steps towards the evaluation of coral reef restoration by using small branch fragments
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“Gardening” of denuded coral reef habitats is a novel restoration approach in which sexual and asexual recruits are used. The present study aimed at the evaluation of the potentiality for restoration use of different types of small fragments subcloned from the Red Sea coral species Stylophora pistillata. In situ short-term (24 h, 45Ca method) and long-term (1 year, alizarin Red S vital staining) experiments revealed high variation (up to 70%) in growth rates between up-growing branches of a specific genet, and that tip ratios in dichotomous branches (n = 880) differ significantly between newly formed and older branches, further emphasizing the within-colony genetic background for spatial configuration. Small, isolated branches (<4 cm) revealed high survivorship (up to 90%, 1 year) and up to 20–30% (1 year, single- vs. dichotomous-tip branches, respectively) growth, showing that small-sized branches are suitable for restoration purposes. Results differed significantly between genets. Total length added for dichotomous-tip branches was in general at least twice that recorded for single tips of a specific genet. Restoration protocols may be applied either by sacrificing whole large colonies via pruning high numbers of small fragments or, by pruning only a few small branches from each one of many genets. An in situ “nursery period” of approximately 8 years is predicted for S. pistillata small fragments.
KeywordsCoral Reef Specific Genet Small Branch Reef Habitat Coral Reef Habitat
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