Coral reef restoration on the Pacific side of Costa Rica

At Raising Coral Costa Rica we have the vision to restore coral reefs in using various coral propagation techniques. Restoring reefs naturally brings people into a symbiotic partnership with ocean life, which has sustained us for thousands of years. We need to accept the mission to change our relationship with coral reefs. The goal is to shift the image that humans are bad for coral reefs to one that humans are good for coral reefs. This is why we call our project “A Human-Coral Symbiosis.” (RCCR)

Although Central America has coral reefs along both coasts, we began our work on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The reefs here are built by a handful of coral species, but they support a high biodiversity of marine life and are also proving to be resilient to climate change. We want to culture these survivors for restoring reefs that can withstand future warming. We began propagation with healthy corals that survived the 2016 El Niño. Small samples are taken from donor colonies. After 6-10 months, the fragments in our coral nursery have grown into coral colonies and are ready for the reef. We often transplant the corals in clusters, so they can fuse together and cover a large area quickly. Monitoring the survivorship and growth of the corals, and whether they are supporting a diverse community of invertebrates and fish, is an essential part of successful restoration. Perhaps our greatest success so far has been with the branching corals (genus Pocillopora). The once healthy population of this species, which is heavily impacted by sedimentation, had diminished nearly to the brink of disappearing. Every few months we took fragments from our nursery colonies to propagate them. Three years later we realized that we had more colonies in our nursery than we had ever found on the nearby reefs. We are now transplanting them back to the reef to bring the numbers to a level where they can successfully reproduce and thrive on their own. Our goal now is to plant thousands of corals, of several species, to really make a difference on the reefs. Raising Coral is the first major project to restore the Pacific reefs of Central America. (RCCR)

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