Reattaching coral to the substrate
Immediate Return of Ecological Services (IRES)
Kuleana Coral is taking a relatively simple approach to coral restoration in Hawaii. Our basic strategy is to collect large dislodged coral colonies—some with over 25 years of growth—and determine if they are likely to survive immediate outplanting. After this health assessment, we move the coral colonies to better conditions and plant them back on the seafloor.
Once transplanted, these mature coral can immediately return to ecological services—we’ve seen fish and eels take up residence by the second day of transplant!
Collecting dislodged coral
Kuleana Coral is refining methods for Hawaii that are efficient, affordable, scalable, and modular for most Hawaiian reef restoration efforts. By using existing coral colonies and keeping the coral in the ocean (in situ) throughout the process, we avoid the risks, expenses and time of a land-based nursery.
Kuleana Coral is hopeful that these simple methods can make coral restoration affordable enough to address reef damage on a large scale throughout Hawaii. As we work to refine techniques, we are reducing costs and developing systems that can easily be moved to different restoration areas. And since mature colonies with high survivability rates provide an immediate return to ecological service, we are optimistic that local, in-situ restoration is an efficient method for Hawaiian coral reefs.
IRES—A Second Chance at Life
Once a live coral colony is outplanted back on the reef, it immediately begins to support marine life. Corals offer critical ecological services (such as shelter and food) to an amazing diversity of species that are not only important to humans, but to the entire ecosystem as a whole.
The larger the coral colony, the greater the ecological services- More space = more life! Larger coral colonies are also more likely to be sexually reproductive, which further helps seed reefs across the state and promotes genetic diversity.
KULEANA CORAL LOOKS FORWARD TO SHARING THE LESSONS AND DATA FROM THIS PILOT PROJECT AND COLLABORATING WITH OTHER OCEAN ADVOCATES TO BEST MEET THE NEEDS OF HAWAIIAN CORAL REEFS.
Coral reefs around the world are suffering devastating losses. Global efforts to mitigate these losses with affordable and scalable solutions are making coral restoration a critical and developing field.
Kuleana Coral continuously studies and collaborates with organizations that are developing successful restoration techniques, both locally and internationally. Relying on sound scientific methods, Kuleana Coral is committed to finding the best Hawaii-specific coral restoration strategies.
One of the biggest challenges to reef restoration in Hawaii is the slow growth rate of Hawaiian corals. While coral in the Caribbean or the Great Barrier reef average growth rates of 12-18 cm per year, Hawaii’s coral averages a mere 2 cm. With this slow growth rate, Hawaiian corals take much longer to recover from losses.
Another constant challenge to reef restoration in Hawaii results from the open ocean swells battering the reef; these swells can destroy newly transplanted coral and the underwater structures used to “farm” them.
With numerous challenges in mind, and with the guidance of local subject matter experts, we are focusing our applied research in the following areas:
Why do corals dislodge,
and why interevene?
By locally recovering disturbed corals and permanently reattaching them to the seafloor, we offset the casualties due to a variety of stressors. Typically, dislodged corals from storms, waves, ship groundings, anchor damage and destructive fishing methods will tumble down the reef slope into deeper water and eventually die in the poorer conditions (low light, low water flow, sediment, unstable substrate). Dislodged corals also pose a physical threat to healthy and fragile coral colonies. Normally long-term survival of displaced corals is extremely low, but if corals can be recovered early enough and returned to the reef permanently, they can survive and even thrive without further intervention.