To meet the challenges of the coral crisis, the development of technologies enabling the scaling-up of coral restoration is a key aspect.
SECORE has pioneered by integrating science and engineering, refining coral restoration methodologies using coral breeding and creating novel tools that allow for the implementation of large-scale restoration (Global Coral Restoration).
Thereby, we utilize our in-house engineering capacity in combination with an international network of partnership. Our goal is to make these technologies and methodologies widely adaptable for potential local infrastructure limitations and to various deployment scenarios, i.e. methods for putting the baby corals out on any restoration site.
Coral settlement substrates
For several years, SECORE has been working to develop substrates on which coral larvae can be settled and then be easily delivered to the reef. Starting with simple ceramic tiles, we now have developed refined appliances.
Our coral settlement substrates are designed in a way that:
- Encourages larval settlement in particular areas of the unit through surface features like groove and micro-ledges, which also protect the settlers as they mature.
- Reduces competition by other organisms via their surface texture and material; for instance not being an attractive surfaces for quick growing and competing turf algae.
- They are self stabilizing, meaning they do not need to be manually attached to the reef when outplanted, but get caught in the reef bed by their 3-D shape; e.g. they are formed like tetrapods, similar to the huge wave breaker constructs.
A large portion of the cost for any coral restoration is the labor needed to outplant the corals, thus, in the right conditions, self stabilizing coral settlement substrates have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of restoration. SECORE, and its partners, are currently in the process of evaluating our innovative 'Seeding Units' (substrates on which tiny corals have already settled) in the field at our working sites in the Caribbean and the Pacific (see also OUR WORK).
Ocean-based coral breeding pools
One of the barriers for organizations to implement coral restoration programs that use coral breeding ('sexual coral restoration') was the need for land-based aquaculture facilities to culture the baby corals prior to their delivery to the respective restoration site.
Often these facilities are too expensive to construct and operate, there is not a suitable space to build them, or both. This barrier significantly limits the areas where coral breeding methods can be utilized. To provide an alternative, SECORE has developed an ocean-based coral breeding pool (aka coral kindergarten) that allows for the culturing and settling of coral larvae (see also coral larvae settlement), without the need for a land-based culture facility.
The pools not only significantly reduce the cost to start coral breeding efforts, even with limited onsite logistics, but also require less personnel and less specialized training to operate. Further, they potentially allow large scale restoration to be conducted in remote areas, which would not be possible with other methodologies known today. SECORE continues to test and refine this technology with our partners in the Caribbean and Pacific (e.g. implementation of coral breeding for restoration in the Dominian Republic).
Coral germ cell collecting devices
Today, we use specifically designed nets to collect coral sperm and egg packages or syringes for the fewer corals that release (very tiny) unpacked germ cells (net or syringe - a tricky question).
For any coral restoration approach to be upscaled considerably, it will be necessary to more efficiently collect and use coral germ cells released during a spawning event. SECORE has been working with partners to develop, prototype, and test new tools that would greatly increase collection without drastically increasing labor necessary to make those collections. Concepts for these improvements are currently being reviewed, and field testing of initial prototypes is planned for the upcoming field seasons. Stay tuned for an update as it becomes available!