[Coral-List] Coral Reef Restoration?

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Sat May 17 14:39:49 EDT 2008

Sorry for the omission....  MM

Hi Don,
There may be a problem in semantics here. Restoration can be
a “fait accompli”, such as restoring an antique car; or can describe a work continually
in progress, a process of restoration that that can never recreate something that
is exactly as it was, such as regaining the body you had in high school, but the
restorative work is still well worth the effort. Natural areas, marine or terrestrial,
are always a work in progress, always changing, and human activity now always influences
the changes that occur, and usually not for what we perceive as the better. As
you imply, we can never “restore” our coral reefs to the ecosystems that they
were a 1000, or 500, or 100, or even 20 year ago. That kind of change is not
reversible. Of course we must cease the stupid insults of pollution and
overexploitation that we humans impose on our ecosystems, and we must also do
the best we can to repair and mitigate the damage we have caused. We must view “restoration”
as a process, not an end, and not only cease our unsustainable and destructive
behavior but also, after careful analysis, do proactively what can be done on
small and large scales to improve the health of our coral reef ecosystems. We
may not see the results of these efforts in our lifetimes, and we do not know all
that is possible, but the work, and development of the proper human mindset is
essential, and it is very important to continue what we have begun.

----- Original Message ----
From: Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com>
To: Don Baker <reefpeace at yahoo.com>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2008 1:21:58 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral Reef Restoration?

----- Original Message ----
From: Don Baker <reefpeace at yahoo.com>
To: Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2008 5:01:56 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral Reef Restoration?

Hi Martin,

Noted your discourse.....typical.

In short...there is indeed NO Such thing as coral reef restoration and institutions, NGOs, etc that use this premise in their grant proposals should be Very careful as there are no examples or models that confirm that humans can, indeed, restore whole reef regions through ways and means today in the 21st century....and perhaps the best way to 'allow' restoration is to stop aberrant human affection and see if the reefs can do it themselves via mechanisms that we still have yet to understand.


Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com> wrote:
I’ve thought long and hard about the basis for your
questions. You’re sort of asking if that prescient child’s question to his
mother, “Mommy, why doesn’t the emperor have on any clothes?� has any
application to the subject of coral reef restoration.  And the answer is Yes, and No. Many of your
questions are still seeking definition and answer, and some current efforts are not really restoration. Although there are
similarities to restoration of terrestrial natural areas, the differences are
profound. For what it’s worth, these are my thoughts on coral reef restoration.

There seem to be three basic categories of reef restoration

1. Specific physical site restoration after human impacts
such as ship groundings, cable laying, anchor damage, frequent diver
visitation, and storm impacts at vulnerable sites by debris such as wrecks and
fishing gear.
This type of damage covers a small area, usually focuses on
damaging physical impacts on coral formations, and can be restored by
individually repairing, replacing, and resettling dislocated corals, and in
greatly impacted sites, by actually rebuilding the structure of the reef that
was destroyed. This category of coral reef restoration in Florida is largely funded by fines imposed
on grounded vessels and is well underway by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
staff. The technology for damaged site restoration has been employed for a
number of years and still being developed. It enhances relatively small, but
locally valuable, reef areas. Is this a worthwhile effort? In terms of the
health of the reefs on a regional scale, it probably has very little impact.
But on a local scale in terms of the relationship of the local community with
important and valuable small reef areas, it can have a great impact. Whether
the term “restoration� is appropriate or not depends on how the term
“restoration� is defined.

2. Preventative restoration efforts on a local and regional
These efforts include active management of direct human
impact on coral reefs and prevention and cessation of harmful terrestrial
effluents. Such efforts include local and regional water quality improvement by
eliminating and reducing pollution and sedimentation from on shore human
activities, establishment of MPAs, control of ship traffic, control of at sea
discharge from large vessels, prevention of oil and chemical spills and other
controls on human activities that negatively impact coral reef organisms.
Although recognized as producing great benefits to coral reef and general
ecosystem health in general, efforts to repair and prevent negative
environmental impacts from terrestrial human activities long term and variable
and the improvements to the reefs are difficult to definitively measure and
evaluate, particularly on a regional scale. Also distant sources of pollutants
are very difficult to identify and modify especially since the health of far
away coral reefs are not perceived as the concern of the polluters. Improvements
are much more obvious in small localized areas that have suffered intense
impacts that have been eliminated.

3. Ecological restoration on specific sites and on a
regional scale.
The concept of ecological restoration has not been given the
consideration it deserves in our efforts to restore coral reefs. In terrestrial
environments, where restoration of an area to its natural state is desired, the
original ecology is the blueprint for the effort. Water flows, elevations,
native plants and animals and their requirements for life and reproduction are
all carefully considered.  Restoration
efforts for coral reefs, however, have been mostly concerned with the
identification and elimination of negative factors, physical repair when
possible and feasible, and management of what remains of the reefs. And this is
very understandable in light of the difficulty of studying coral reef
environments, the vast expanses of oceanic areas affected, the difficulties
performing and interpreting research within the intensely complex and variable
coral reef ecology, and the multifarious international policies and politics of
the many countries with coral reef interests.  It is time though, with the science that has be established to this
point, to spend greater effort on ecological restoration
On our Florida reefs, ecological restoration would include reestablishment and continued
maintenance of small, reproductively effective populations of the keystone
herbivore, the long-spined sea urchin, Diadema
antillarum, general repair of storm damage when possible, outplanting of
farmed coral fragments and juveniles where appropriate, and general ecological
care of specific reef sites. Although it is not possible to directly restore
the ecology of all the coral reefs in South Florida,
it is possible, with enough human effort, to help repair the ecology of small specific
reef sites (algae and sediment removal from coral heads, physical coral disease
removal, monitoring coral health, etc.) at various points all along the reef
tract. These ecologically maintained reefs will have a positive effect on
surrounding reef areas through increased coral reef health at these sites,
which will result in increased coral and Diadema spawning and increased survival of juvenile corals and Diadema at that location and possibly in surrounding areas. Reefs
in other areas of the world would have different ecological problems and
require different research and restoration procedures.
Habitat restoration is also a part of ecological restoration
in that it can improve the health of a coral reef by providing the physical
structure that certain organisms (corals, various other invertebrates, and fish)
require for successful settlement and growth. Physical habitat structures
designed to induce settlement and early juvenile survival of various reef
organisms, corals, urchins, fish, etc. should be developed and deployed to
assist recruitment to coral reef areas. This is an important area for
continuing and future research efforts. 

So I feel the concept of coal reef restoration has validity
and should not be dismissed as impossible. We don’t know what we can do until
we try, and try again, and then try again, and keep on trying as long as we
can. After all, the foundation of success is intelligent failure….. 

Martin Moe

----- Original Message ----
From: Don Baker 
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Thursday, May 1, 2008 6:00:08 PM
Subject: [Coral-List] Coral Reef Restoration?

Coral-List Members

Though this subject may have been discussed in the past herein this List, I think its important to clarify as to what "Coral Reef Restoration" actually means.

We read a plethora of programs, proposals, projects, and perhaps 'environmental pipe dreams' about 'undertaking coral reef restoration.'  But what are the successes, the real accomplishments out in the real world and not within someone's book, magazine article, or grant write up?

Can we actually restore a reef?   How many square miles can we restore?

Will coral farming seedling rejects add to a restoration area?  Do Reef Balls help at all in the big picture or only as highly localized cosmetic, band-aid ecosystem touch ups. 

Where is the real and present data that substantiates any successful coral reef restoration endeavor?  I am not referring to MPA establishment.  I am referring to actual coral transplants, re-plants, etc.

Can we actually restore a coral reef?  Or will 'mother nature' take care of its own and restore if human affections are eliminated?

In short, I think we need to be very careful whenever we 'use' the concept of coral reef restoration in any of our write ups, project drafts,  and grant proposals.


Alternate Email: donbjr95 at hotmail.com

"Dedication and motivated direction in achieving specific goals related to the care and protection of living things is not necessarily a guaranteed formula for success.  Success is, more often than not, a direct result of a person’s passion in addition to the above formula." [Don Baker, Marine Conservationist/Activist, 1998]

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Alternate Email: donbjr95 at hotmail.com

"Dedication and motivated direction in achieving specific goals related to the care and protection of living things is not necessarily a guaranteed formula for success.  Success is, more often than not, a direct result of a person’s passion in addition to the above formula." [Don Baker, Marine Conservationist/Activist, 1998]

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