The Island of Bonaire's 'Boulder' Approach to Reef Restoration

bonaire coral restoration blocks

One of the boulder coral trays in the new nursery (Photo: RRFB)

As part of a new coral restoration initiative, the Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire (RRFB) has started growing three species of boulder corals in its nurseries. These three coral species are among the most common reef-builders that make up Bonaire’s reefs – lobed star coral (Orbicella annularis), mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata), and great star coral (Montastraea cavernosa).

Since 2013, Reef Renewal Bonaire has primarily focused its restoration work on two branching coral species – elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) – as these corals have experienced a drastic decline in population since the 1970s. However, over the last decade, in Bonaire as well as throughout the greater Caribbean region, other coral species, including large reef-building coral species such as boulder corals, have experienced a significant loss in cover and abundance on coral reefs.

bonaire coral restoration species

Colonies of Orbicella faveolata (left) Montastraea cavernosa (top right) and Orbicella annularis (bottom right) (Photo: RRFB)

After developments in Florida led to a breakthrough in the propagation of boulder corals, Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire incorporated the new techniques to expand its restoration effort with an added focus on species diversity. Using a modified coral tree nursery installed earlier this month, Reef Renewal has populated the four trees with 300 coral fragments collected from parent colonies by RRFB staff under the supervision of the Bonaire National Marine Park.

'These new species are a key part to our broader, more inclusive reef restoration approach,' said Francesca Virdis, Project Coordinator of Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire. 'Through the addition of these species to our restoration program, we will be better-suited to accelerate the recovery of damaged reefs by increasing the diversity and complexity of coral communities.' 

bonaire coral restoration team

RRFB Team members with the coral tree structures (Photo: RRFB)

This project startup has been fully funded by Cargill Bonaire and the Cargill Global Partnership fund. 'Cargill’s support demonstrates to the community their commitment to sustainability,' said Virgis. 'It is important for us to have the community involved in the restoration of our reefs and we are very grateful to Cargill for believing in and backing this project.'

Over the coming years, Reef Renewal Bonaire will continue growing and propagating boulder corals in their coral nursery with the goal of scaling-up production to produce thousands of fragments a year. These fragments will be planted back onto the reefs at new and existing restoration sites around Bonaire as a part of the ongoing coral restoration effort.



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