[Coral-List] Coral reef restoration

Avigdor Abelson avigdor at tauex.tau.ac.il
Sun Feb 12 07:30:44 EST 2017

Hi John,
A bit slow response, but I would like to step in and refer to your main issue ("It seems to me that there should be somewhere a critical review... But it does not appear that anyone has done the critical review that I expected to find...") - We have a couple of papers that (partially) address this issue in relation to marine ecosystem restoration as well as coral-reef restoration (see below references and links; all are open access). 
One of these papers ("Expanding marine protected areas to include degraded coral reefs", in Conserv. Biol.), although not mentioning restoration in the title, dedicates a large section to coral-reef restoration (CRR) as an integral part of coral-reef conservation, and suggests the use of restoration as a tool to upgrade deteriorated reefs as candidate sites for MPAs, notably MPA-networks.  
A third, general, manuscript, in which we deal with the main challenges of marine ecosystem restoration and suggest future directions, has been recently submitted, and once it is accepted I would be happy to send you a copy, if you are interested.
We are also currently working on a ms that focuses specifically on CRR, and in which we deal with issues of scale, the limited available tools (including the problems related to coral-reef gardening as the virtually sole CRR tool) and the common lack of basic essential steps (e.g. pre-launch assessment and post-implementation monitoring and success evaluation) - We expect this ms to be ready shortly for submission. 
Referring to Sarah's response - I do agree with her claim that: "Most coral reef restoration projects fail when they don't follow basic science-based principles of ecological restoration". This is definitely a common problem. However, I also think that this is but one among diverse other problems inherent in the implementation of CRR.
I am not sure that we all have the same view of what is the 'science' of CRR, or of its present state.  I truly believe in the potential of CRR as an essential management tool in coral-reef conservation; but, in order to make it an applicable option we need to address certain key issues, such as expanding the toolbox beyond that of just coral- reef gardening.  In other words,  I don't think there is (yet) the required level of scientific knowledge to support sound CRR. )This is, probably, the reason why not so many coral-reef scientists are enthusiastic about CRR as an option to countermeasure the large-scale degradation of the world's reef).

The article by Suding et al. (2015) is indeed an important study, highlighting certain general problems of ecological restoration, some of which are prominent in CRR. 
In the article the authors claim that: "There is little question that ecological restoration can provide substantial benefits that enhance quality of life". It would seem that the authors (most of whom are "non-marine") base their assertion mainly on ecological restoration achievements in terrestrial and aquatic systems (with some exceptions regarding marine systems such as mangrove forests and oyster reefs). 

Beyond the potential substantial benefits, Suding et al. caution about "...declarations ["of intent to restore"] may spur actions that compromise biodiversity". I consider this to be one of the main problems of coral-reef gardening, which commonly employs only a few species, mostly fast-growing and easy to handle (for fragmentation) branching corals.

Suding et al. (2015), also draw attention to the issue of "Specialized programs such as compensatory mitigation and ecosystem service delivery can be a useful contribution to-but are not synonymous with-ecological restoration.. Such distinctions are not trivial because projects undertaken in the name of restoration may in fact be something different and, in many cases, have been demonstrated to achieve neither restoration nor their intended purposes" - Another relevant issue of CRR.  
And the last, related point, which worth mentioning in their paper, refers to strategies that use the term 'restoration', but are nonetheless not exactly 'comprehensive ecological restoration' in   nature - "Degraded lands could be converted to carbon farms, where monocultures of fast-growing tree species are planted and managed to optimize carbon sequestration. Green infrastructure could provide vegetation that fixes carbon and increases permeable surfaces. As valuable as these strategies may be, they alone do not constitute comprehensive ecological restoration".

Despite my criticism, I do believe that the young scientific discipline of CRR will play a crucial role in our efforts to repair the damage as far   as possible, and under the suboptimal circumstances of growing threats on all spatial scales.
Cheers ~AV

Links to the mentioned papers:
Abelson, A., Halpern, B.S., Reed, D.C., Orth, R.J., Kendrick, G.A., Beck, M..W., Belmaker, J., Krause, G., Edgar, G.J., Airoldi, L., Brokovich, E., France, R., Shashar, N., de Blaeij, A., Stambler, N., Salameh, P., Shechter, M.. and Nelson, P.  2015. Upgrading Marine Ecosystem Restoration Using Ecological-Social Concepts. BioScience 66(2):156-163. Dec 16:biv171

Abelson, A., P. Nelson, G. Edgar, N. Shashar, D. Reed, J. Belmaker, G. Krause, M. Beck, E. Brokovich, R. France, S. Gaines. 2016. Expanding marine protected areas to include degraded coral reefs. Conserv. Biol. 30(6), pp.1182-1191 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12722/full

# Two additional papers that suggest/explore an alternative CRR tool (restocking):
Obolski, U., Hadany, L. and Abelson, A., 2016. Potential contribution of fish restocking to the recovery of deteriorated coral reefs: an alternative restoration method?. PeerJ, 4, p.e1732. https://peerj.com/articles/1732/
Abelson, A., Obolski, U., Regoniel, P. and Hadany, L., 2016. Restocking Herbivorous Fish Populations As a Social-Ecological Restoration Tool in Coral Reefs. Frontiers in Marine Science, 3, p.138. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2016.00138/full

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of John Ware
Sent: Thursday, February 2, 2017 8:11 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Coral reef restoration

Dear List,

Back in ~mid January, I sent out a request asking the list for references to papers that provided an evaluation or critique of the process of reef restoration, coral transplants, "population enhancement" 
(my personal favorite), etc.

Of the 68 papers in my file on this topic, only one is the least bit

Bayraktarov et al, Ecol Appl 26(4):1055-1074 (I believe this is open access).

Elisa et al. concentrate on financial aspects and note that few papers describe costs in sufficient detail.  But they also mention that there is almost certainly a publication bias towards success.

It seems to me that there should be somewhere a critical review mentioning, for example, the relevance of scale in terms of global reef size and climate change.

But it does not appear that anyone has done the critical review that I expected to find (in a respectable journal).

Did I miss something??
John Ware

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