At the Reef Systems Academic Unit (UASA, department of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, UNAM) in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, is the headquarters―the capacity center―for an over-regional network on coral restoration using coral breeding.
In cooperation with Dr. Anastazia Banaszak, lead of the Coralium team and SECORE's long-term partner for years, we bring together practitioners from all over South and Central America to train them (coral restoration training) and work jointly on breeding corals ('sexual coral restoration') for sustainable restoration efforts.
Coral breeding training
Since 2013, training on coral breeding for restoration during spawning events has been held annually, together with national and international partners and participants from over 40 institutions―including universities, zoos and aquaria, national parcs, NGOs and authorities. Additionally, students have been taken part in annual workshops and seminars about coral reproduction, breeding and restoration.
Today, a growing number of stakeholders, scientists and practitioners are part of an expanding coral breeding network, such as Expedition Akumal, Mexico, and FUNDEMAR, Dominican Republic.
Coral species for breeding
At UASA, the following coral species are bred: Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral), Orbicella faveolata (mountainous star coral), Diploria labyrinthiformis (grooved brain coral), Pseudodiploria strigosa (symmetrical brain coral), and, 2020 for the first time ever on a larger scale: O. annularis (boulder star coral)
Pilot outplanting and implementation
Since 2015, ~4500 substrates bearing baby corals (Seeding Units, SU) have been outplanted for pilot studies and are monitored for growth rates and survival. ~900 additional SU are currently cultured in a low-tech facility for open coasts on-site and will be outplanted as soon as possible (right now, access to the ocean is difficult due to the pandemic; but some have been sown on the reef in September 2020; more to follow).
Endangered elkhorn corals
The now critically endangered elkhorn coral has once dominated the sun-lit shallows, providing crucial structural habitat and protecting the shoreline against waves and storms. Today, this species has shrunken to alarmingly low numbers with natural coral recruitment rates that are very low to non-existent. Special focus of our breeding efforts is laid on this reef-building key-species.
Comision Naional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)
Parque Nacional Arrecife de Puerto Morelos
Parque Nacional Costa Occidental Isla Mujeres Punta Cancun y Punta Nizuc
Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, UNAM
Xcaret Eco Parc Mexico
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