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Harnessing natural recovery processes to improve restoration outcomes: an experimental assessment of sponge-mediated coral reef restoration.

Biggs BC - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: Restoration is increasingly implemented to reestablish habitat structure and function following physical anthropogenic disturbance, but scientific knowledge of effectiveness of methods lags behind demand for guidelines.Differences in overall sponge species performance suggest species selection is important to consider.Employing organisms that jump start successional pathways and facilitate recovery can significantly improve restoration outcomes; however, best practices require techniques be tailored to each system.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA. Biggs@bio.fsu.edu

ABSTRACT

Background: Restoration is increasingly implemented to reestablish habitat structure and function following physical anthropogenic disturbance, but scientific knowledge of effectiveness of methods lags behind demand for guidelines. On coral reefs, recovery is largely dependent on coral reestablishment, and substratum stability is critical to the survival of coral fragments and recruits. Concrete is often used to immobilize rubble, but its ecological performance has not been rigorously evaluated, and restoration has generally fallen short of returning degraded habitat to pre-disturbance conditions. Fragments of erect branching sponges mediate reef recovery by facilitating rubble consolidation, yet such natural processes have been largely overlooked in restoring reefs.

Methods: On two reefs in Curacao, four treatments - coral rubble alone, rubble seeded with sponge fragments, rubble bound by concrete, and concrete "rubble" bound by concrete - were monitored over four years to investigate rubble consolidation with and without sponges and the ecological performance of treatments in terms of the number and diversity of coral recruits. Species specific rates of sponge fragment attachment to rubble, donor sponge growth and tissue replacement, and fragment survival inside rubble piles were also investigated to evaluate sponge species performance and determine rates for sustainably harvesting tissue. FINDINGS/SIGNIFICANCE: Rubble piles seeded with sponges retained height and shape to a significantly greater degree, lost fewer replicates to water motion, and were significantly more likely to be consolidated over time than rubble alone. Significantly more corals recruited to sponge-seeded rubble than to all other treatments. Coral diversity was also greatest for rubble with sponges and it was the only treatment to which framework building corals recruited. Differences in overall sponge species performance suggest species selection is important to consider. Employing organisms that jump start successional pathways and facilitate recovery can significantly improve restoration outcomes; however, best practices require techniques be tailored to each system.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Sponge fragments stabilizing rubble in piles three months post deployment at Sea Aquarium.Sponge fragments inserted into piles grew and adhered to adjacent pieces of rubble in less than three months. A and B. Aplysina cauliformis stabilizing sections of rubble piles. C. Coral rubble stabilization by Aplysina sp.
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pone-0064945-g004: Sponge fragments stabilizing rubble in piles three months post deployment at Sea Aquarium.Sponge fragments inserted into piles grew and adhered to adjacent pieces of rubble in less than three months. A and B. Aplysina cauliformis stabilizing sections of rubble piles. C. Coral rubble stabilization by Aplysina sp.

Mentions: Within three months of deployment (October, 2007), sponge fragments inserted into rubble piles at SA had grown in contact with and attached to adjacent pieces of coral rubble (Figure 4). After twelve months, 13 (61.9%) piles of rubble with sponges at SA and 17 (85%) at BP had been temporarily stabilized by the growth and attachment of sponge fragments. Piles of rubble alone were also temporarily stabilized during this period, but by turf algae, which accounted for 4 piles (19%) at SA and 11 piles (55%) at BP. Over four years, 11 piles of rubble alone (52.4%) at SA and 16 piles (80%) at BP were stable in at least one survey due to recruitment and growth of turf algae, macroalgae (e.g., Halimeda), cryptic sponges, and Palythoa. Over this same period, 20 (95.2%) piles of sponge seeded rubble at SA and 19 (95%) at BP were stable in at least one, but often in successive surveys.


Harnessing natural recovery processes to improve restoration outcomes: an experimental assessment of sponge-mediated coral reef restoration.

Biggs BC - PLoS ONE (2013)

Sponge fragments stabilizing rubble in piles three months post deployment at Sea Aquarium.Sponge fragments inserted into piles grew and adhered to adjacent pieces of rubble in less than three months. A and B. Aplysina cauliformis stabilizing sections of rubble piles. C. Coral rubble stabilization by Aplysina sp.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3672152&req=5

pone-0064945-g004: Sponge fragments stabilizing rubble in piles three months post deployment at Sea Aquarium.Sponge fragments inserted into piles grew and adhered to adjacent pieces of rubble in less than three months. A and B. Aplysina cauliformis stabilizing sections of rubble piles. C. Coral rubble stabilization by Aplysina sp.
Mentions: Within three months of deployment (October, 2007), sponge fragments inserted into rubble piles at SA had grown in contact with and attached to adjacent pieces of coral rubble (Figure 4). After twelve months, 13 (61.9%) piles of rubble with sponges at SA and 17 (85%) at BP had been temporarily stabilized by the growth and attachment of sponge fragments. Piles of rubble alone were also temporarily stabilized during this period, but by turf algae, which accounted for 4 piles (19%) at SA and 11 piles (55%) at BP. Over four years, 11 piles of rubble alone (52.4%) at SA and 16 piles (80%) at BP were stable in at least one survey due to recruitment and growth of turf algae, macroalgae (e.g., Halimeda), cryptic sponges, and Palythoa. Over this same period, 20 (95.2%) piles of sponge seeded rubble at SA and 19 (95%) at BP were stable in at least one, but often in successive surveys.

Bottom Line: Restoration is increasingly implemented to reestablish habitat structure and function following physical anthropogenic disturbance, but scientific knowledge of effectiveness of methods lags behind demand for guidelines.Differences in overall sponge species performance suggest species selection is important to consider.Employing organisms that jump start successional pathways and facilitate recovery can significantly improve restoration outcomes; however, best practices require techniques be tailored to each system.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA. Biggs@bio.fsu.edu

ABSTRACT

Background: Restoration is increasingly implemented to reestablish habitat structure and function following physical anthropogenic disturbance, but scientific knowledge of effectiveness of methods lags behind demand for guidelines. On coral reefs, recovery is largely dependent on coral reestablishment, and substratum stability is critical to the survival of coral fragments and recruits. Concrete is often used to immobilize rubble, but its ecological performance has not been rigorously evaluated, and restoration has generally fallen short of returning degraded habitat to pre-disturbance conditions. Fragments of erect branching sponges mediate reef recovery by facilitating rubble consolidation, yet such natural processes have been largely overlooked in restoring reefs.

Methods: On two reefs in Curacao, four treatments - coral rubble alone, rubble seeded with sponge fragments, rubble bound by concrete, and concrete "rubble" bound by concrete - were monitored over four years to investigate rubble consolidation with and without sponges and the ecological performance of treatments in terms of the number and diversity of coral recruits. Species specific rates of sponge fragment attachment to rubble, donor sponge growth and tissue replacement, and fragment survival inside rubble piles were also investigated to evaluate sponge species performance and determine rates for sustainably harvesting tissue. FINDINGS/SIGNIFICANCE: Rubble piles seeded with sponges retained height and shape to a significantly greater degree, lost fewer replicates to water motion, and were significantly more likely to be consolidated over time than rubble alone. Significantly more corals recruited to sponge-seeded rubble than to all other treatments. Coral diversity was also greatest for rubble with sponges and it was the only treatment to which framework building corals recruited. Differences in overall sponge species performance suggest species selection is important to consider. Employing organisms that jump start successional pathways and facilitate recovery can significantly improve restoration outcomes; however, best practices require techniques be tailored to each system.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus