Keep growing, Porites!
Photo: Valérie Chamberland
Two years ago, these finger corals (Porites porites) started off as three 1 cm2 ‘micro-fragments’, each consisting of only a few polyps. In May 2017, during one of our annual workshops on Curaçao, these micro-fragments were carefully cut from a larger branch using a special diamond blade saw, and were glued to SECORE tetrapods. This technique is named ‘micro-fragmentation’ and was shown to speed up the growth of recently cut coral tissue, sometimes by 20-50 times compared to natural species growth rates. When micro-fragments originating from the same coral are glued in proximity, they can eventually fuse and form an even larger colony in a short period of time.
Our field team recently visited the reef site where these finger coral micro-fragments had been outplanted, and found them to have already grown into multiple large branches. This is therefore a promising approach to help maintain populations of the finger coral, which, when abundant and well-developed, can form large and compact fields that are home to an impressive diversity of small fishes and marine invertebrates.
A large field of finger corals in Curaçao. (Kelly Latjinhouwers)
It is currently unclear if populations that remain on Curaçao are genetically diverse enough to reproduce sexually. Thus, by outplanting multiple genotypes in close proximity to naturally occurring colonies, we hope to increase the chances of successful sexual recruitment of this important reef building species. Keep growing, Porites!
SECORE’s research and coral reef restoration work on Curaçao is part of our Global Coral Restoration Project and done in close cooperation with Carmabi Marine Research Station and the Curaçao Sea Aquarium. It is further supported by our lead partner the California Academy of Sciences, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, the Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium and the Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean.
Text: Valérie Chamberland and Kelly Latjinhouwers