Coral Nurseries

Coral restoration projects are found all over the world now, with a variety of in situ and ex situ culture methodologies proven successful. What works in one location might not work in another, depending on the species of coral, depth and other local conditions such as water quality, substrate type, wave action, etc.
In Belize we have used three in situ coral nursery types:
1) A-frames, 2) tables with ropes and cookies, both adapted from Austin Bowden-Kerby at coralforconservation.com, and 3) domes, adapted from reefscapers.com.

See the map below for nursery locations in southern Belize.

A-Frames

In 2009 we placed A-frames with the same 17 acroporid genets in six different locations in southern Belize. See Bowden-Kerby and Carne (2012) (download pdf) for more info. While the A-frames were excellent for comparing short term growth rates across nursery locations and between genotypes, faster growing species outcompeted slower growers, the method was not best for out-planting elkhorn coral, and the frame material had variable life spans in other parts of Belize.
So while there still exist three frames in southern Belize from 2009, that we continue to harvest from every year, we have discontinued using this method for the above reasons.

Day Zero

1Year Growth

Tables (with ropes and cookies):

Tables are made with steel to support the ropes and cookies; for information on our methods manual contact us directly. The ropes work well with A. cervicornis and A. prolifera, but A. palmata grow too heavy and work best on the cookies. Cookies are cement discs that provide a platform for outplanting elkhorn without damaging coral tissue; they also allow elkhorn corals to grow in a natural, upright position, while creating a solid, supporting base on the cement cookie. Other coral species we have had success with on the cement cookies include:
  • Dendrogyna cylindrus
  • Undaria tenuifolia
  • Orcibella annularis
  • Orcibella favelota
  • Orcibella franksi
  • Diploria strigosa
  • Pseaudodiploria clivosa
  • Porities furcata
  • Montastrea cavernosa

Day Zero

1Year Growth

Domes

In 2009 Belize lost much inner shallow reef and substrate due to an earthquake in neighboring Guatemala. We were left with abrupt drops that exposed the dead skeletons of vast amounts of A. cervicornis. The domes were adopted for out-planting where no existing substrate allowed for cement work on large dead coral heads: on rubble/seagrass beds.
While others use these types of structures to create mini-reefs with multiple species, our lessons learned from the A-frames led us to use the domes for a single species, in fact also single genets. The domes allowed us to create patches of staghorn using a different genet on each dome, placed near enough that should spawning occur, there is potential for cross fertilization. Placing the domes on the rubble substrate ensures that when fragments drop due to storms or other physical damage, some may still ‘catch’ and thrive, spreading the coral cover through natural asexual fragmentation.

Day Zero

1Year Growth

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