Transplantation of juvenile corals: a new approach for enhancing colonization of artificial reefs
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Coral reefs in the northern Gulf of Eilat are exposed to continuous man-made disturbances, resulting in decreased coral coverage and reduced recruitment at the Nature Reserve of Eilat. The construction of artificial reefs on sandy bottoms is a possible option to decrease diving pressure on natural reefs. In the present study we tested this hypothesis by submerging an experimental artificial reef anchored to the bottom at 18 m depth and floated vertically 3 m below water surface. The reef was composed of PVC plates, attached both vertically and horizontally along a wire. Propagules of two coral species, the stony coral Stylophora pistillata and the soft coral Dendronephthya hemprichi, were transplanted to this artificial reef. Planulae of S. pistillata were obtained during the breeding season, seeded in petri dishes in the laboratory and after 2 wk the dishes were transferred to the experimental artificial reef. Automized fragments of D. hemprichi which had previously settled on 10 × 10 cm PVC plates were transplanted onto the experimental artificial reef. The survivorship of the transplanted D. hemprichi colonies was significantly higher on the lower sides of shallower plates. Survivorship of S. pistillata colonies increased with depth when located on the vertical plates, or on the upper sides of the horizontal plates. The highest survivorship of this coral was on the vertical plates and on the upper sides of the horizontal plates, while very low survivorship was recorded on the lower sides. The results indicate that vertical artificial surfaces offer the optimal biotic and abiotic conditions for the survival of the two examined corals. The vertical plates are characterized by low sed imentation rates, low coverage of turf-algae, minimal grazing by sea urchins and absence of the competitor tunicate Didemnum sp. In addition, the vertical orientation of the experimental plates reduces shading and offers the required light intensity for zooxanthellate corals such as S. pistillata. Only a few studies to date have tried to implement artificial reefs in a coral reef environment. The results of the present study indicate the potential of enhancing recruitment of corals by transplantation of juvenile recruits onto appropriate artificial structures. Maximal survivorship of these recruits is dependent upon the structural features of the artificial reef, which should offer optimal conditions.
KeywordsCoral Reef Coral Coverage Vertical Plate Artificial Reef Horizontal Plate
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