Collaboration is key to rebuilding coral reefs

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The most successful and cost-effective ways to restore coral reefs have been identified by an international group of scientists, after analyzing restoration projects in Latin America.

The University of Queensland’s Dr. Elisa Bayraktarov led the team that investigated 12 coral restoration case studies in five countries.

“Coral reefs worldwide are degrading due to , overfishing, pollution, coastal development,  and diseases,” Dr. Bayraktarov said.

“Coral reef restoration—or rebuilding what we have lost—may become critical, especially for coral species that are threatened with extinction. Much of this work is led by environmental non-Government organizations (ENGOs), tourism operators, , national resource management groups and governments who rarely publish their great depth of knowledge. So we decided to bridge the gap between academia, ENGOs and other groups that restore .”

The researchers analyzed the motivations and techniques used for each , providing estimates on total annual project cost per unit area of reef restored, project duration and the spatial extent of interventions.

The team found the most successful projects had high coral survival rates or an increase in coral cover, but that they also offered socioeconomic benefits for their surrounding communities.

“Projects that train local fishermen or recreational divers to participate in restoration, or engage with dive operators or hotels to support the maintenance of the coral nurseries, were much more effective and long-lived,” Dr. Bayraktarov said.

“We also found that coral reef restoration efforts in Latin American countries and territories were cheaper than previously thought—with the median cost of a project around US$93,000 (~AUD$130,000) to restore one hectare of coral reef. The projects also had run for much longer than assumed, with some active for up to 17 years. And best of all, an analysis of all the studied projects revealed a high likelihood of overall project success of 70 percent.”

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