Community Based Strategies to Enhance Coral Reef Resilience and Recovery through Selective Coral Larval Culturing to Strengthen Population Genetic Fitness

On the link below you can download the full Master Thesis by Chad Scott, for the Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Thailand. The theses explains in detail some of the work we have been doing through the coral spawning and larvae culturing program here at the NHRCP, and our drive to bring a more genetic focus to coral reef restoration to improve the resilience of reefs in the face of climate change and local anthropogenic threats.

Scott, CM. 2013. Community Based Strategies to Enhance Coral Reef Resilience and Recovery through Selective Coral Larval Culturing to Strengthen Population Genetic Fitness. MSC., Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai. pp 59.

Abstract

Coral reefs are one of the most environmentally and economically valuable ecosystems for tropical nations, but also one of the most threatened. Their narrow habitat range and reproductive strategies make them especially susceptible to anthropogenic threats and climate change. In 2010, reefs throughout the South China Sea experienced mass coral bleaching and mortality, which was particularly bad for Thailand’s reefs, with up to 98 % bleaching and 90% mortality in some areas, and being amongst the structurally and functionally important Acroporidae, Pocilliporidae, and Favidae corals. Due to the frequency of these large disturbances, combined with other chronic threats, many reef areas have become so depleted that it is unlikely they can recover on their own. Both passive and active restoration of depleted reef ecosystems is necessary so that related economic and ecological values are not lost. To be effective, coral restoration programs must make a transition from the traditional methods focusing on increasing coral abundance on reefs (using cloning or other methods that reduce genetic variability of populations) to strategies focused on increasing the genetic diversity of restored reefs. Methods for the culturing of coral larvae are well developed within the scientific community, but to date most of the work being done has focused on the culturing of coral larvae for scientific research, and not for restoration. Although studies have been completed on the need the role of genetic variability and hybridization in the adaptation of corals to changing conditions, no practical guides have been written to direct local reef managers. Through the knowledge and methods gained through this study, a practical guide to integrating theories of increasing the genetic variability of feedstocks and hybridizing corals has been written. The guide provides an argument for genetic based management systems and practical procedure for carrying out the selective coral breeding and culturing project using volunteer teams and locally available materials. Such guidelines are strongly needed to preserve or restore the resilience of coral reefs in the face of a rising consortium of localized and global threats associated with human population growth and climate change currently being experienced by reefs across the globe.

 

Click here to download the full manuscript (PDF).