Optimising coral propagation methods

Many reef restoration and adaptation interventions under development rely on the steady and rapid production of healthy juvenile corals, to deploy at scale. 

Starting in 2020, we are undertaking a four-year study to optimise coral propagation methods. 

In SeaSim, we will spawn a diversity of coral species that have a variety of reproductive modes to test their settlement preferences for both biological cues and novel engineered surfaces. We also aim to identify their windows of competency for settlement, i.e. how soon after spawning they are ready to recruit onto the reef. 

Extensive research over the past 30 years has shown symbiotic algae that live within healthy corals strongly affects the health and performance of the coral, especially regarding thermal tolerance and growth. Enhancing coral fitness by inoculating them with symbionts with adaptive traits has shown very promising results but most research has focused on corals within the genus Acropora and Orbicella. 

In collaboration with other Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP) research teams we will introduce algal symbionts Zooxanthellae, that have different traits, to test if they can play a role in optimising post-settlement survival. 

We will also test whether managing corals’ nutrition and introducing microbial probiotics improves their health and growth. 

This year we will begin working with two common Great Barrier Reef species - Acropora millepora and Acropora hyacinthus – and will expand to include a wider suite of species, including non-Acroporid species during the span of the study.

 

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