Reversing coral reef decline requires reducing environmental threats while actively restoring reef ecological structure and func-tion. A promising restoration approach uses coral breeding to boost natural recruitment and repopulate reefs with geneticallydiverse coral communities. Recent advances in predicting spawning, capturing spawn, culturing larvae, and rearing settlers haveenabled the successful propagation, settlement, and outplanting of coral offspring in all of the world’s major reef regions. Never-theless, breeding efforts frequently yield low survival, reflecting the type III survivorship curve of corals and poor condition ofmost reefs targeted for restoration. Furthermore, coral breeding programs are still limited in spatial scale and species diversity.Here, we highlight four priority areas for research and cooperative innovation to increase the effectiveness and scale of coralbreeding in restoration: (1) expanding the number of restoration sites and species, (2) improving broodstock selection to maximizethe genetic diversity and adaptive capacity of restored populations, (3) enhancing culture conditions to improve offspring healthbefore and after outplanting, and (4) scaling up infrastructure and technologies for large-scale coral breeding and restoration. Pri-oritizing efforts in these four areas will enable practitioners to address reef decline at relevant ecological scales, re-establish self-sustaining coral populations, and ensure the long-term success of restoration interventions. Overall, we aim to guide the coral res-toration community toward actions and opportunities that can yield rapid technical advances in larval rearing and coral breeding,foster interdisciplinary collaborations, and ultimately achieve the ecological restoration of coral reefs.
1. Biodiversity inventories and monitoring techniques for marine fishes often over-look small (<5 cm), bottom-associated (‘cryptobenthic’) fishes, and few stand-ardized, comparative assessments of cryptobenthic fish communities exist. We sought to develop a standardized, quantitative survey method for cryptobenthic fishes that permits their sampling across a variety of habitats and conditions.
2. Fish- specific autonomous reef monitoring structures (FARMS) are designed to sample cryptobenthic fishes using a suite of accessible and affordable materials. To generate a variety of microhabitats, FARMS consist of three layers of stacked PVC pipes in three different sizes, as well as a bottom and top level of loose PVC pipe fragments in a mesh basket. We deployed FARMS across a variety of habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, oyster reefs, mangroves, and soft- bottom habitats across six locations (Hawai'i, Texas, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Curaçao).
3. From shallow estuaries to coral reefs beyond 100 m depth, FARMS attracted distinct communities of native cryptobenthic fishes with strong site or habitat speci ficity. Comparing the FARMS to communities sampled with alternative methods (enclosed clove-oil stations on coral reefs in Panama and oyster sampling units on oyster reefs in Texas) suggests that FARMS yield a subset of cryptobenthic fishspecies that are representative of those present on local coral and oyster reefs. While FARMS yield fewer individuals per sample, they are efficient sampling de-vices relative to the sampled area.
4. We demonstrate that FARMS represent a useful tool for standardized collections of cryptobenthic fishes. While natural substrata are bound to yield more mature communities with a larger number of individuals and wider range of specialist spe-cies, the potential to deploy and retrieve FARMS in turbid environments, beyond regular SCUBA depth, and where fish collections using anaesthetics or ichthyo-cides are forbidden suggests that they are a valuable complementary technique to survey fishes in aquatic ecosystems. Deploying FARMS in locations and habi-tats where cryptobenthic fish communities have not been studied in detail may yield many valuable specimens of unknown or poorly known species.KEYWORDSartificial habitat, biodiversity, biogeography, coral reef fishes, fish trap, fisheries-independent sampling, taxonomic inventory
Assisted gene flow (AGF) is a conservation intervention to accelerate
species adaptation to climate change by importing genetic
diversity into at-risk populations. Corals exemplify both the need for
AGF and its technical challenges; corals have declined in abundance,
suffered pervasive reproductive failures, and struggled to adapt to
climate change, yet mature corals cannot be easily moved for breeding,
and coral gametes lose viability within hours. Here, we report
the successful demonstration of AGF in corals using cryopreserved
sperm that was frozen for 2 to 10 y. We fertilized Acropora palmata
eggs from the western Caribbean (Curaçao) with cryopreserved
sperm from genetically distinct populations in the eastern and central
Caribbean (Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively). We then confirmed
interpopulation parentage in the Curaçao–Florida offspring
using 19,696 single-nucleotide polymorphism markers. Thus, we
provide evidence of reproductive compatibility of a Caribbean coral
across a recognized barrier to gene flow. The 6-mo survival of AGF
offspring was 42%, the highest ever achieved in this species, yielding
the largest wildlife population ever raised from cryopreserved
material. By breeding a critically endangered coral across its range
withoutmoving adults, we show that AGF using cryopreservation is
a viable conservation tool to increase genetic diversity in threatened