A major determinant in reef restoration programs is the choice of species employed. In this paper, we concentrate on the potential use of Montipora digitata (Dana, 1846), a highly fragmented and weedy coral species, for reef restoration and for recreation of reef physiognomy in Bolinao, The Philippines, under the 'gardening concept'. Coral ramets (n=1960) were reared in a shallow lagoon nursery for 1 year and then, the resulting nursery-grown colonies were transplanted onto denuded reef knolls at two different sites and according to three transplantation designs (grid design with high or low density and patch design). The nursery grown ramets, which had initially exhibited a 99% survivorship, were reduced to 87% by a super typhoon. Low detachment rates, low mortality (<1% both) and low bleaching (<3% over most months), have been indicating good nursery conditions for corals. Monitoring transplanted colonies for over 15 months showed no significant differences between the sites or among the three different transplantation designs. The major events of mortality and detachment were documented during the first 3 months post-transplantation and in the wake of a bleaching event. M digitata transplants exhibited rapid growth (a 384% increase in ecological volume) and frequent fragmentation. Some fragments remained by their colonies of origin entangled in the attached branches, while other fragments fell onto the surrounding sandy substrate, forming M. digitata 'beds' around the knolls. In both, nursery and transplanted corals, creation of complex 3D structures was followed by recruitment of juvenile fishes into aggregations. Above results reveal that employing fast growing, weedy and easily fragmenting branching species, which are also considered as 'modifier species', in reef restoration may result in a fast regeneration of reef physiognomy. Instead of 'copying' natural processes, reef managers should therefore concentrate on recovering the reef's ability for self-maintenance.
- Gardening concept
- Montipora digitata
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law