A recent study from Curaçao has shown that healthy coral populations can produce up to 200 times more juvenile corals than degraded coral populations. Researchers found that healthy corals had a higher percentage of successful parents which produced up to four times more coral larvae.
“Healthy reefs are critical nurseries for baby corals and they support the recovery of coral communities elsewhere,” said lead author Dr. Aaron Hartmann.
Coral colonies were samples for three successive years on six coral reef sites around the island of Curaçao. Three sites were located in Oostpunt and three sites located in Willemstad. Oostpunt is the underdeveloped side of the island while Willemstad is the urban center of the island with large a large industrial harbor, cruise ship terminals, and an oil refinery.
The team studied three brooding species of coral, Agaricia humilis (low-relief lettuce coral), Favia fragum (golf ball coral), Siderastrea radians (lesser starlet coral), and two broadcast spawning species Orbicella annularis (boulder star coral) and Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral).
Protecting Healthy Reefs
Combined with higher coral numbers overall, the healthy populations in Oostpunt produced up 200 times more offspring per square meter of coral reef. This study shows that coral health and not only coral abundance should be considered when developing a coral conservation strategy and that more emphasis should be placed on protecting healthy populations of coral no matter the size.
By protecting these pockets of healthy corals, it allows resource managers more time to mitigation coral decline and time to develop restoration strategies. Because coral offspring can swims and settle on nearby reefs, the healthiest remaining reefs are important to help re-seed and regrow coral reefs on local and regional scales. [Phys.org]