Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Restore or Not to Restore?

Event Name/Location

11th International Coral Reef Symposium: Ft Lauderdale, FL

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Coral Reefs, Restoration, Conservation of Natural Resources


Most coral reef scientists and managers would agree that coral reefs are degrading at ever increasing rates from a multitude of natural and anthropogenic stressors occurring at global, regional, and local scales. However, there is less agreement on the circumstances that warrant restoration and if costs outweigh benefits. In many cases observed recovery rates are slow, and new communities often have compositions differing from the original. Requirements for restoration of human-induced local damages often differ widely among countries. Efforts may involve reattachment of corals or their propagation (enhancement of recruitment) using various methodologies. The success of such local restoration is variable and depends on many natural and human induced factors. Nevertheless, published data and experimental results of projects in Southeast Florida demonstrate a high probability of success. Some would argue that restoration is insufficient to address large-scale degradation issues and, consequently, that limited funds should instead be directed at reducing impacts. While it is true that regional damages resulting from hurricanes, tsunamis, disease outbreaks, and bleaching events may involve areas too large for full-scale restoration, smaller scale restoration is an important management tool that could potentially benefit local and regional coral populations and speed recovery. Locally restored areas may serve as sources of coral propagation and stepping stones in connectivity between reefs. Restoration projects are also important in generating public awareness and support of conservation efforts. Additional research efforts directed at finding and testing new coral reef restoration methodologies should be continued. Unaided recovery of injured coral reefs now represents a much less likely scenario given the considerable local, regional, and global stressors.

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