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How Quickly do Fragments of Coral “Self-Attach” after Transplantation?


J. R. Guest, email


Transplantation of coral fragments is seen as a potential method to rapidly restore coral cover to areas of degraded reef; however, considerable research is still needed to assess the effectiveness of coral transplantation as a viable reef restoration tool. Initially, during restoration efforts, coral transplants are attached artificially. Self-attachment (i.e., growth of coral tissue onto the substrate) provides a more secure and lasting bond, thus knowledge about self-attachment times for corals is of importance to reef restoration. While it is known that coral fragments may generate new tissue and bond to substrata within a few weeks of transplantation, surprisingly little is known about the speed of self-attachment for most species. Two independent experiments were carried out to examine the self-attachment times of 12 scleractinian and one non-scleractinian coral species to a natural calcium carbonate substrate. The first experiment examined times to self-attachment in 11 species of differing morphologies from seven families over approximately 7 months, whereas the second experiment examined three fast-attaching Acropora species over approximately 1 month. In the first experiment, the branching species Acropora muricata had a significantly faster self-attachment time compared to all other species, while Echinopora lamellosa had the slowest self-attachment time. For the second experiment, A. muricata was significantly slower to self-attach than Acropora hyacinthus (tabular) and Acropora digitifera (corymbose-digitate). The results suggest that a combination of factors including growth rates, growth form and life history may determine how quickly fragments of coral species self-attach after fragmentation and transplantation.