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Restore Viable Coral Populations

 A tree structure is one method used to grow out coral that will later be transplanted onto a reef
A tree structure is one method used to grow out coral that will later be transplanted onto a reef. Photo Credit: NOAA

Population enhancement is one restoration approach that specifically addresses degraded coral populations. This includes planting nursery grown corals back onto reefs, maintaining genetic diversity, making sure habitat is suitable for natural recruitment, and building and maintaining coral resilience to threats including climate change, unsustainable fishing practices, and land-based sources of pollution. Effective restoration drives the recovery of coral reef ecosystems.

Restoring viable coral populations requires a multi-pronged approach with interventions that are direct and informed by the local ecology. Local stressors that need to be addressed include the threats mentioned above, the loss of herbivorous species like sea urchins and grazing fish, coral disease, invasive species, and impacts from repeated vessel anchoring, and vessel groundings.

Active and targeted restoration through population enhancement methods and other interventions will mitigate for declining coral populations and facilitate adaptation of coral reef ecosystems to evolving environmental conditions.

What We Are Doing
Outplanting, or planting coral fragments grown in nurseries back onto reefs, is a type of restoration activity.
Outplanting, or planting coral fragments grown in nurseries back onto reefs, is a type of restoration activity. Photo Credit: NOAA/Kelli O’Donnell

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program is working with partners on various restoration activities. Improving the quality of habitats where coral settle and create communities, preventing avoidable losses of coral and their habitat, enhancing the resilience of coral populations, and improving coral health and survival will assist coral reef ecosystems with being viable and functioning.