Coral reef protection is the process of modifying human activities to avoid damage to healthy coral reefs and to help damaged reefs recover. The key strategies used in reef protection include defining measurable goals and introducing active management and community involvement to reduce stressors that damage reef health. It is difficult to create a substantial plan for the protection of coral reefs due to their location out in open water; there is no distinct ownership over certain parts of the ocean, which creates difficulty in delegating responsibility. Private and government groups whose purpose is to help the environment have made steps towards the restoration of coral reefs [wikipedia, retrieved Ferbruary 2018]. Today, coral restoration is recognized as a promising strategy for preserving the genetic diversity of endangered coral species, enhancing coral populations and increasing the likelihood of successful sexual reproduction in short timeframes (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2015).
Since 2012, Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRFB) has developed a large scale reef restoration program, promoting awareness and engaging tourists and local volunteers. To date 50 different genotypes of A. cervicornis and A. palmata are growing in the nurseries and more than 15,000 coral colonies have been already transplanted back to the reef. The restoration of Acropora corals as practiced by CRFB is shown to be highly successful in terms of growth and survival of new colonies in both nurseries and transplant sites. Coral restoration is expected to contribute to ecosystem services and increase coastal protection, biodiversity, fish biomass, and tourism (Meesters et al. 2015).
The above figure shows a sequence of pictures taken at one of the restoration locations at Klein Bonaire. The corals were selected after having grown 6-8 months in off-shore nurseries and then “glued” onto the substrate. The pictures show one coral cluster, which consists of 10 A. cervicornis coral colonies of the same genotype, transplanted on March 2016. Different clusters are strategically placed in the same general area, in order to promote genetic diversity and enhance the chances of having successful sexual reproductions between different strains.