Project in the Dominican Republic starts with site scouting
SECORE’s Aric Bickel (2nd f. l.), Margaret Miller (3rd f. r.), and John Parkinson (2nd f. r.) met Rita Sellares (3rd f.l.) and her FUNDEMAR team to plan the joint coral restoration work in the Dominican Republic. Photo: Rita Sellares / FUNDEMAR
The SECORE staff were excited at the prospect for our visit to Bayahíbe in the Dominican Republic. We were undertaking a site visit to consult and plan the first large-scale larval restoration project in this country by our partners at Fundación Dominicana de Estudios Marinos (FUNDEMAR). FUNDEMAR has participated in several past SECORE capacity-building workshops and have been very active over the past two seasons in documenting spawning patterns among a range of spawning coral species. They are now ready to implement larval restoration in their local reefs.
We were lucky to spend three, half-days in the water with the FUNDEMAR team visiting reef sites where they anticipate collecting spawn, potential sites for the in situ larval pools, and candidate outplanting sites. We also got to visit several of the fragment nurseries operated collaboratively by FUNDEMAR and various local dive shops, an example of the constructive participation by the dominant tourism sector in marine conservation in this region.
During their various orientation dives the scientists spotted young elkhorn coral colonies that could be used for spawn collection, a few of them growing on artificial reef structures such as concrete “reef balls”, shown in the 3rd photo. (Photos: Margaret Miller)
One of the interesting field observations related to elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). This species is relatively rare in the area so FUNDEMAR has not previously conducted spawning observations on this species. However, we scouted several sites with decent and healthy stands of elkhorn coral, including juvenile colonies that appear to be thriving. One of these sites is an artificial reef built along the resort beaches. FUNDEMAR Executive Director Rita Sellares said that these structures had been placed about 10 years ago. Surprisingly, they hosted tens of thriving elkhorn coral colonies (photo) that must have settled since that time, suggesting they are distinct genotypes and could thus form an effect and accessible spawning collection site. Thus, we were encouraged that targeting A. palmata for larval collection and propagation at one or two of these sites is definitely worth attempting.
FUNDEMAR is collaborating with a lot of dive shops and many other players from the local tourism industry to conserve the reefs of the Dominican Republic. Here FUNDEMAR Executive Director Rita Sellares shows one of the info displays one of the local dive shops is using to raise awareness for coral conservation and restoration. (Photo: Margaret Miller)
Another impressive aspect of coral restoration in the Dominican Republic is the tremendous cooperation among different organizations that are all working together in a collaborative fashion. We were also able to meet a couple of other local partners that collaborate with FUNDEMAR in this important endeavor, including the local Nature Conservancy participants – our important Global Coral Restoration Project partner –, and the Grupo Punta Cana Foundation.
Thank you, FUNDEMAR, for a beautiful and encouraging visit! We look forward to productive coral restoration collaboration in the Republica Dominicana!
Notes from the field - Margaret Miller