Assisted sexual reproduction of threatened corals as a restoration strategy in Southeastern Dominican Republic
Maria Villalpando| Researcher, Fundación Dominicana de Estudios Marinos, Dominican Republic.
In response to the fast rates of coral reef degradation world-wide, coral restoration has been proposed as a solution to recover populations of reef building corals. Sexual coral propagation techniques may increase genetic diversity and therefore resilience in populations, however, low recruit survival after seeding to a reef is still a challenge for restoration practitioners. Here, we share how FUNDEMAR in the Dominican Republic has successfully assisted the reproduction and produced viable recruits from threatened coral species such Acropora cervicornis, Acropora palmata and Dendrogyra cylindrus using both in-situ and ex-situ culturing systems. In the case of the gonochoric species D. cylindrus, viable larvae production is beginning to be understood but there is still not much known about this species’ early life ecology. Our first report of successful survival of laboratory-bred D. cylindrus recruits grown in situ in an underwater nursery setting, indicates that D. cylindrus settlers might still be able to overcome unknown post-settlement bottlenecks in the wild. These initial results illustrate the potential of using larval propagation techniques as a tool to restore D. cylindrus populations.
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