transplanting Acropora cytherea to MHI (fwd)

Bruce Carlson carlson at
Tue Feb 20 22:45:18 EST 1996

---------- Forwarded message ---------- 
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 17:42:16 -1000 (HST) 
From: Bruce Carlson <carlson at> 
To: Ed Parnell <parnell at> 
Subject: Re: transplanting Acropora cytherea to MHI 


Good idea but there are pitfalls.  Collecting Acropora cytheria at French  
Frigate Shoals is possible, and we can certainly grow it here (I have  
several colonies from Fiji) in our outdoor tanks. However, State  
Agriculture will not allow anything from French Frigate Shoals into the  
main Hawaiian Islands without an import permit.  Yes the NW Hawaiian  
Islands are geologically and biologically and politically part of Hawaii  
but from Agriculture's standpoint they might as well be Africa.  I can  
get a permit to bring corals back from the NWHI but only on condition  
that they be safeguarded from accidental introduction into the wild.  The  
permit conditions are very stringent with stiff penalites. 

In addition to these hurdles, there are many people here who are  
steadfastly against introductions of new corals into the main Hawaiian  
Islands.  Basically on the premise that we cannot know in advance what  
disruption they may cause to existing ecosystems.  My guess is that A.  
cytheria would provide benefits, but I could be wrong and who would want  
to take the blame for any permanent long-term environmental havoc?  We've  
had a long history of bad mistakes in this area (e.g. the introduction of  
the blue-lined snapper from Tahiti) so I think such a proposal would take  
years to get through the approval process -- if ever!! 

For your information, Acropora was apparently quite common on Oahu about  
10,000 years ago.  We can still find fossil colonies of it on the Ewa  
plain (and brain corals etc.).  A few colonies of Acropora have turned up  
on Kauai over the years.  That's what we need to find (and nurture!). 

Thanks for the ideas! 

Bruce Carlson 

On Tue, 20 Feb 1996, Ed Parnell wrote: 

> Hello, 
> I saw your reply on the coral server list regarding the transplantation  
> of corals for reef rehab.  In it you inferred that the ends probably  
> wouldn't justify the means (i.e., too much effort).  However, I still  
> wonder how Acropora cytherea would do in the Main Hawaiian Islands if  
> transplanted from the North West Hawaiian Islands.  As you know, Acropora  
> is a hardy, fecund, fragmenting, and most important of all, a fast  
> growing species.  The lack of Holocene reef accretion in Hawaii could be  
> due to the  
> lack of just such a species.  Given the high energy, high disturbance  
> regime of Hawaii, pioneering and fast growth seem to be required for  
> resilience in the face of frequent disturbance.  Acropora fits this bill  
> in addition to being resistant to wave energy such as seen in the NWHI  
> where it is naturally common.  It just hasn't made its way to the MHI. 
> The recent work of Clark and Edwards (1995; Coral Reefs, 14:201-213)  
> demonstrate that mortality rates of transplanted acroporids was about  
> 50% after 28 months.  Given the fast growth and 50% return rates of Acropora  
> they measured, doesn't it seem worthwhile to try it in the MHI.  The  
> possible benefits over the next fifty years include: 
> 1)Production of reef that serves to: 
> 	a)enlarge coral habitat space for coral reef species 
> 	b)for fish this could mean higher biomass and therefore larger  
> and safer fishing stocks 
> 	c)higher fish biomass could lead to increased herbivory rates on  
> coral competing algae thereby leading to a an established healthy  
> positive feedback coral community; N.B. the production of reef by  
> Acropora could also enhance the biomass of other corals so the MHI reefs  
> would not be monospecific.  Reef buildup provides vertical relief so  
> recruiting larvae aren't quickly abraded by sand and debris as they are now 
> 	d)protect shorelines that may be eroded in the near future by  
> storm waves in an ocean that's rising 
> 2)Enhance an important natural resource of this state that attracts  
> tourist dollars. 
> As you mentioned in your reply, the inertia to establish corals to  
> rehabilitate/enhance reefs, if not regions, is immense.  But, it may be that  
> once  
> Acropora got started in the MHI it would do quite well on its own seeding  
> the region from a few strategically placed reefs. 
> One could bring down parts of many colonies and transplant them to a  
> protected area such as Kaneohe Bay.  After they are established and begin  
> to reproduce locally, they become a local source of larvae for seeding  
> larger and larger areas of K Bay.  The planulae could be collected over  
> these reefs and in K Bay itself (since flushing rates are low).  These  
> larvae could then be artificially recruited in culture and grown for a  
> year (to miss hi juv. mort. rates) then transplanted to other areas of  
> Oahu.  Fragments of the K Bay colonies could also be transplanted to  
> other areas of Oahu. 
> These may be grandiose ideas but I think some discussion is warranted and at  
> least a transplanting pilot study should be done with A. cytherea here in  
> Hawaii.  What do you think?  Would there be resistance to this idea by  
> the public or reef scientists?  Have you already had this idea? 
> Ed Parnell 

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