Coral grown in a laboratory setting and then transplanted into the wild have successfully reproduced for the first time, according to a report from scientists with Secore International, a conservation group dedicated to protecting coral species. This development could have potential positive impacts on coral reef restoration efforts around the world as more corals are successfully reared and then replanted.
According to the Independent, Secore International, along with the University of Amsterdam and Curacao’s Carmabi Marine Research Station, started growing elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), a threatened species, in the lab beginning in 2011. The offspring were transplanted onto a Caribbean coral reef in 2012. The elkhorn coral have since grown to the size of a soccer ball and are reproducing at the same time as their wild counterparts on the reef.
“This event marks the first ever successful rearing of a threatened Caribbean coral species to its reproductive age,” said Valérie Chamberland, a coral reef ecologist. The elkhorn coral was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. While this particular project is limited to small areas that are conducive to this species of coral, the researchers are hoping to duplicate their efforts on a larger scale project in the Caribbean as well as on Curacao in an effort to bolster the populations of the elkhorn coral.