Evaluating the Ecological Benefits of Transplanted Coral Fragments

ADE Progress Report 1 image

Progress report 1 - The Aquaculture Development for the Environment Project. March 2019

Map showing two locations experimental coral transplant and control plots were established.

Map showing two locations experimental coral transplant and control plots were established

Aim of this study/ report

To determine the effect that transplanting coral fragments into degraded coral reef areas has on biodiversity.


To achieve this aim we will measure change in coral reef ecosystems at plots receiving coral transplants at known densities; and nearby reference plots that receive no transplants. We will establish changes in various measures including:
* Rates of natural coral reef recruitment and recovery.
* Coral propagule survival and growth rates.
* Coral cover and habitat complexity.
* Macro invertebrate abundance and diversity.
* Fish assemblage abundance and diversity.


Coral reefs worldwide are under threat from a variety of human and natural impacts. A changing climate is foremost of the threats, heightened temperatures and acidity causing coral bleaching and increasing intensity and frequency of cyclones causing mechanical destruction (Rinkevich 2014, Knutson et al. 2010, Barner et al. 2015). The loss of coral reefs will not only have devastating impacts to biodiversity but will also have significant detrimental effects to people. Foremost of these impacts is to the threat to the primary food supply of an estimated 2 billion people who derive significant amounts of their subsistence protein from coral reefs fisheries globally. Another is to the enormous tourism industry worth $375 billion globally as of 2017 (Opel et al. 2017), representing one of the main incomes for many small tropical islander countries. Another would be the coastal protection that barrier reefs offer, reducing wave energy and erosion of shorelines (Fabian et al. 2013), imperative services for the future of small islander countries, especially with a rising sea level. It is estimated that more than 100 million people receive protection from coastal reefs (Ferrario et al. 2014).

There are numerous efforts to restore coral reefs globally as it has been identified as a priority for the survival of many coastal human populations (Wilson and Forsyth 2018). There are many direct and more general methods to restore these ecosystems (Rinkevich 2014), with a variety of success rates often dependant on factors other than environmental ones (Fabian et al. 2013). Nevertheless, coral reef restoration projects have been found to increase the diversity and abundance of fish assemblages (Opel et al. 2017), demonstrating proven ecological benefits of coral reef rehabilitation.
Fiji’s coral reefs have been impacted by coastal development, cyclones, bleaching, and dynamite fishing among other impacts. The ADE project has been working on solutions to reverse this trend.

They utilize coral fragments grown on special bases designed by WSI and transplant these back into the reef in order to rehabilitate degraded areas. In some cases, they provide direct employment and income to local villages and this anecdotally results in greater stewardship and care for the health of traditional coral reef areas (Table1.). This project is designed to demonstrate the underlying assumption that the transplantation of corals onto degraded reefs will result in improved ecosystem health through the increased coral reef fish and invertebrate diversity.

The full Progress Report

Read the full pdf ADE Progress Report here ADE Progress Report 1 March 2019.