The coral settlement box: A simple device to produce coral stock from brooded coral larvae entirely in situ
Coral reef restoration requires efficient, effective and scalable techniques and methodologies to counteract the continued decline of coral reefs. Here we tested an in situ method to collect and settle fully developed planulae shed by the brooding coral species (Stylophora pistillata). Three devices called Coral Settlement Boxes (CSB; L × W × H: 50 × 40 × 6 cm; V: 4.5 L) were built from transparent Plexiglas and designed to be easily assembled and disassembled. Each CSB contained two integrated biofilm-covered nets (0.5 × 0.5 cm mesh size), which functioned as settlement substrate. The trap container of a traditional planulae trap was replaced by the CSB, and this new construction was used to collected planulae over 4 consecutive days. The CSBs were then transported to a mid-water coral nursery at 12 m depth. One CSB was disassembled immediately, the two settlement substrates were removed and each was placed in a protective cage (mesh size 4 cm2). The other two CSBs were opened after a 4-month period, leaving the four settlement substrates attached to the Plexiglas plates and covered by protective cages. None of the settlement substrates were cleaned of fouling organisms in the nursery. After 5 months in the mid-water nursery, a total of 120 healthy juvenile coral colonies had resulted from the estimated 2045 planulae initially trapped. This inexpensive and simple approach to producing sexually propagated stocks of colonies entirely in situ may enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and scalability of restoration activities that include brooding coral species.