Skip to content
Main menu hidden.
Published: 2024-03-20 Updated: 2024-04-05, 14:50

Tomorrow's reefs – the importance of environmental awareness in coral restoration

NEWS Around the world, projects are underway to save or rebuild damaged coral reefs. However, many restoration projects fail within just a few years. Giving more consideration to current and future environmental conditions would, in many cases, improve long-term restoration success, say the researchers behind a new article published in Plos Biology.

Coral reefs are extremely valuable. An estimated 25 percent of all plants and animals in the ocean, and 1 billion people worldwide depend on them – for food, income, coastal protection or cultural traditions. But their existence is also threatened by multiple factors, such as climate change, pollution, overfishing and coastal development.

Relying on climate change mitigation alone to ensure the future viability of coral reefs is no longer realistic. Targeted efforts are now needed, and restoration of damaged coral reefs has today become a multimillion-dollar business. Nevertheless, the long-term outcome of many coral restoration projects is highly uncertain.

“Too often we take an immediate reactive response to restore coral reefs we have lost instead of considering alternative strategies that might be more sustainable,” says Heidi Burdett, Associate Professor at Umeå Marine Sciences Centre and the Department of Ecology & Environmental Sciences, Umeå University.

There might be a way to increase the success of coral reef restoration. We already know that environmental factors consistently play a central role in the success (or failure) of restoration efforts. But the researchers of this paper found that environmental factors are under-reported in the reef restoration literature.

“Without environmental context, we cannot build our scientific understanding of the factors that contribute to the success and failure of restoration efforts,” says Nick Kamenos, Director of Umeå Marine Sciences Centre and Professor at the Department of Ecology & Environmental Sciences, Umeå University.

In the face of rapid climate change, riskier restoration methods are justified to achieve successful results. Sufficient environmental awareness will allow us to establish reefs in new locations, where conditions in the coming years and decades will be favourable for coral growth. Or we will be able to better tailor restoration around specific coral species, informed by their chances of survival in current and future environmental scenarios.

“Creating new spatial boundaries, or introducing new ecological communities, can have major ecological, social, economic, cultural, political and ethical consequences, both positive and negative. A thorough risk analysis of the social and ecological consequences of new restoration approaches must be undertaken – and this should be grounded in robust environmental knowledge," says Heidi Burdett.


Read the full article here: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3002542

Further reading (article in The Conversation): https://theconversation.com/restoring-reefs-killed-by-climate-change-may-simply-put-corals-back-out-to-die-heres-how-we-can-improve-their-chances-224994



Contact information

Heidi Burdett
Associate professor