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Reef Water Coral Farm | FARNET

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Active coral farming and reef restoration sites in Puerto Rico. From northwest to northeast: Isabela; Arecibo; Vega Baja-Manatí; Arrecifes La Cordillera Natural. Low-tech coral farming and reef rehabilitation have become important tools to foster Site selection can be critical for coral restoration success as poor site. Dating a farmer is no joke. Just ask Jerry Miller, founder of, the dating site aimed at anyone who doesn't count themselves as.

Furthermore, it will provide the multi-disciplinary basis for addressing the emergent challenge of addressing novel coral reef ecosystem-based fisheries management, climate change-related impacts, community-based integration, and the development of conceptual models to address future multi-disciplinary social-ecological management challenges.

Nevertheless, there are specific lessons learned directly associated to coral farming and out-planting activities that will provide specific guidance to managers and practitioners. Siting of coral farms Site selection for establishing either coral farms or out-planting locations is a critical step. In order to fully recover structural and functional characteristics of a degraded ecosystem, more research is needed for the selection of suitable transplant sites e.

It is also paramount to address ecological factors that might stress out coral out-plants and affect their survival and growth e. Another critical lesson learned in Puerto Rico was the need to avoid areas exposed to urban runoff, human trampling, and uncontrolled recreational impacts e.

Low-tech materials and design A key component to low-tech approaches is maintaining a cost-effective operation, with multiple benefits and high success rates. Low-tech methods often involve the creative use of readily available, cheap materials to support in situ coral farms.

Multiple coral farming unit designs have been successfully used in Puerto Rico involving the use of pvc plastic pipes, fishing lines, plastic-covered wire mesh, and concrete. There is not a specific universal method to meet all needs or that can be suitable for all locations. Factors such as wave action, surface current exposure, sediment dynamics, depth, visibility, and coral species to be used can be critical determinants of the methods to be implemented.

However, there is evidence that horizontal line nurseries are highly successful in terms of coral colony percent survival rate, live tissue cover, and skeletal growth rate, when compared to colonies grown in wire mesh units [ 7680 ]. Coral colonies grown in line nurseries and other types of floating units often show faster growth rates, show lower living tissue lesions, and do better when out-planted to natural reef surfaces.

Coral farming unit design is a function of specific local needs, available resources, projected number of coral propagules, projected coral reef restoration efforts, objectives of the restoration plan, size of source wild coral populations, and other logistical constraints.

The latter may include: But, in the long run, the local availability of materials can be the main factor influencing the final decision. Timing of coral farming activities It is critical that coral transplanting, unless necessary as an emergency restoration measure, avoids the warmest months. Survival rate shows a significant reduction during the late summer and early fall months due to a combination of impacts associated to high sea surface temperature, major runoff impacts, major risk of disease outbreaks, and the risk of bleaching.

Most coral out-planting should be planned for winter and spring months to increase survival rates. Collection of coral fragments 3. Avoidance of negative impacts on wild donor colonies It is fundamental to reduce negative impacts of collections on wild donor coral colonies.

No mortality or reduced growth should result in donor colonies due directly to fragmentation. Impacts should be monitored at least for 3 months by direct comparison of a representative selection of donor colonies and adjacent control unaltered colonies and by looking at percent mortality, tissue regeneration rate, growth rate, and branchiness index branch production. For larger foliose, plate, or massive colonies, donor colonies should be monitored for 6 months to a year as tissue regeneration, and skeletal regrowth is slower.

Transportation, handling, and out-planting Transportation should always be conducted avoiding coral exposure to direct sunlight and warm temperatures. For short distances, colonies can be transported under subaerial exposure, but under humid conditions e. But for longer distance travel, a water tank should be used provided with an air pump, water pump, and chiller to control temperature.

Local benefits The major local relevance of coral farming activities in Puerto Rico has been the continuous expansion of staghorn coral A. Strengthening collaboration, communication, and sharing of lessons learning experiences among all engaged stakeholders has been a key for success, as well as for improving support and volunteer collaboration among groups.

This has also allowed to significantly increase the number of harvested colonies available for future reef restoration efforts. In addition, during recent years, there has also been an increase in the number of new community-based volunteers technically trained in coral transplanting, coral harvesting, and farm maintenance to collaborate at all project sites. In the particular case of NGO SAM, this experience was also used to successfully train volunteers at the Dominican Republic, resulting in the development of a long-term coral farming program at Punta Cana.

But in summary, coral farming and reef rehabilitation have provided an important return of investment as well as multiple added values listed in Table 5. It has also fostered an improved integration and participation of community-based organizations, the academia, and government agencies to improve opportunities for community-based outreach, hands-on education, technical training, and empowerment.

It has also contributed baseline information to support the development and implementation of a public policy in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for the conservation of marine biodiversity and the rehabilitation of coral reefs ecosystem resilience, functions, benefits, goods, and services. Direct benefit Added values Enhance public presence and leading role of NGOs and the academia addressing coral reef conservation issues Strengthen out the Caribbean-wide leading role of PR as a model for the development of effective strategies for the multi-disciplinary integration of different sectors in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change impacts.

In the long-term, this will foster increased reef accretion rates Fish productivity Increase reef accretion to enhance benthic spatial heterogeneity and the rapid rehabilitation of fish communities mostly by fostering increased fish recruitment and by enhancing herbivore guilds.

In the long term, this will increase connectivity with other coral reefs across ecological to regional scales Coastal resilience Increase coral density, wave buffering role, genetic connectivity, recover fish communities, and rehabilitate herbivory levels to help recover coastal resilience Ecosystem resistance to future disturbances Increase ecosystem resilience to foster an increased resistance to future disturbances e.

Therefore, increased fish biomass will contribute to increasing food security and sovereignty Goods, benefits and services Healthy recovered reefs will increase its multiple benefits to humans e.

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This project will contribute to recover other coral reef habitats, further representing new business opportunities and serving as a model for other locations in PR and the rest of the Caribbean Recreational opportunities Rehabilitated reefs and enhanced fish communities also become highly attractive for tourists, snorkelers, and SCUBA divers.

This creates multiple new opportunities for the development of recreational activities Sustainable tourism Coral reef rehabilitation creates the basis for the development of small island sustainable tourism practices.

In this sense, the academia and NGOs will have the unique opportunity to also become leaders in the development of environmentally and socio-economically sustainable activities for small islands Carbon sequestration and offsetting Exponentially increasing coral growth lead to an exponential increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide CO2 sequestration in the form of calcium carbonate CaCO3 precipitation during coral calcification.

This creates the unique opportunity for developing a carbon offsetting business through low-tech coral farming and reef rehabilitation Property values Healthy thriving coral reefs adjacent to the shoreline help to increase adjacent properties values e. Summary of return of investment and added values of coral farming and reef rehabilitation projects. In the long term, coral reef rehabilitation is a win-win for all local stakeholder sectors.

For local managers, projects can enhance the public presence of leading community-based NGOs and the academia, can contribute to increase the number of trained and educated professionals and stakeholders, foster empowered collaborative management, advance the implementation of no-take MPAs, and habitat conservation goals, and can provide timely information for resource managers and decision-makers. Projects can also provide fundamental baseline information regarding factors such as coral reproduction and growth, fish productivity, connectivity, and coastal resilience.

Reef rehabilitation strategies can also contribute to enhance local ecosystems resistance to disturbance, can contribute to buffer wave action, and in the long-term, shoreline erosion associated to sea level rise. Most of these impacts have never been addressed in the literature as they often fall outside the scope of most research and conservation grants, which fail to address multi-disciplinary and social-ecological components of coral reef restoration.

Lessons learned from maintenance and data collection 4. Maintenance Regular maintenance of coral farms, and often of out-planted colonies, at least on their initial stages, is a critical process for the success of any project.

Such activities can be easily coupled with regular monitoring of corals in farms and of out-planted colonies. Maintenance efforts should have the following objectives: Sustain health and survival of coral colonies. This requires regular visits e.

If possible, corals should be revisited 2 weeks after transplanting. Then, they could be visited after a month, and then at 3-month interval, though this can vary depending on the method, distance from the shore, difficulty of access, etc. This will allow the frequent manual removal of algae, fouling, and opportunistic taxa e. This will also allow to identify and remove injured or diseased colonies to prevent potential transmission to other healthy colonies.

Repair potential mechanical damages on coral farming units. Regular maintenance visits will allow to repair any potential mechanical failure of coral farming units as a result of strong wave action, storm impacts, or damages inflicted by human activities such as boating, anchoring, fishing gear, snorkelers, and recreationists.

Allow qualitative and quantitative documentation of colony survival and growth. The combination of regular maintenance and monitoring can allow regular qualitative e.

Monitoring of coral farms 4. Percent colony survival rate should be quantified from the entire population on each farming unit, as well as assessing colony condition and source of mortality, if present e.

If different genetic clones are being grown, then information should be addressed for each specific clone with an appropriate replicate number of samples per clone. High productivity and growth of coral fragments in nurseries Coral fragment growth data, in combination with percent survival rate, are the most straightforward approach to address coral farming productivity success. Growth data could be highly variable, depending on sampling size. Long distances also add to the list of challenges for farmers looking for love.

For year-old Hannah Blackmer — a farmer in central Vermont — distance has been a major problem in her Tinder game. I live in a very rural area which makes it pretty difficult to meet people, let alone young or single or suitable," she says.

Hannah also finds her schedule to be an obstacle as she works around 65 or 70 hours a week, so even if the first few dates go well, it ends up being a "catch me if you can" situation. But, she remains hopeful that she'll meet a "dashing and single human who lives relatively nearby". The good old fashioned organic route to finding love is still proving most successful for those in the farming community.

But online dating shouldn't be territory reserved exclusively for the benefit of city dwellers. For now, there are a variety of different factors that make the realm of online dating particularly challenging for farmers.

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If you find yourself matching with a farmer, spare a thought for the inflexible nature of their job — it might not be that they're not into you. Sorry, you're addicted to Tinder. Several population studies have estimated rates of colony growth and survival [ 363738 ].

None, however, identified how spatiotemporal variations in outplants survival, growth, and rates of recruitment e. The lack of studies that directly evaluate the population response to demographic variability limits our capacity to develop effective restorations initiatives. Very few studies have attempted to address essential questions such as: How long restored populations would last without human intervention? How many fragments would be necessary to keep populations viable?

How often out-planting activities need to be carried out to assure the persistence of the restored populations? Which is the effective colony size of transplantation? The answers to these questions are fundamental for the development and success of restoration activities. And demographic modeling can lead the way to answer them.

This short period of economic support certainly limits the amount of spatiotemporal demographic data that can be used to parameterize population models. Indeed, the low spatiotemporal resolution is one of the main criticisms raised by many researchers against the use of population modeling for conservation purposes.

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One year of demographic data is the minimum amount necessary to perform a basic population model based on estimates of population growth rates. This is not surprising, given the limited resources available to monitor populations of conservation concern.

If the intention is to conduct demographic analyses that take into consideration environmental variability, both in space and time, then at least 2 years of demographic data are necessary. It is well established in the demographic literature that two temporal points 2 years are sufficient to perform the stochastic analyses e. It is important to note, however, that demographic and population models are not crystal balls that predict the future of a population under a certain set of conditions.

Nature cannot be replicated, and as such the results of any given model need to be considered as possible population outcomes which should be combined with the best information available to take educated conservation decisions for this species. Coral reef rehabilitation to restore ecological connectivity Depending on the configuration of coral out-planted patches, its spatial distribution and the temporal extension of coral reef rehabilitation efforts it may become a critical tool to manage ecological connectivity among adjacent reef systems.

This will allow increased gamete release, reduced gamete waste, reduced Allee effect, and enhanced probabilities of sexual reproduction and recruitment. In theory, this would allow to enhance genetic recombination, improve population fitness, and allow for increased connectivity with downstream reef systems. For this to be successful, understanding local to regional oceanographic dynamics is fundamental.

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Thus, numerical wave model development, as well understanding often complex surface circulation patterns, is very important as a planning tool to shape future long-term coral reef restoration initiatives. Indirectly, this can also become a very important indirect component of reef fish conservation and restoration management as restored coral reefs can restore benthic spatial heterogeneity and rehabilitate essential fish habitat functions across ecologically connected scales fundamental for reef fish dispersal.

Lessons learned from fish community dynamics 3. Impact of community-based reef rehabilitation on fish communities Coral reef rehabilitation results in increased benthic spatial heterogeneity, which enhances microhabitats for fish shelter on local scales. Post-larval and juvenile grunts Haemulon spp. But also, multiple other taxa show significant increases in fish abundance and biomass.

There is also an increase in fish abundance and biomass with increasing thicket age, comparing 1- 2- and 4-year-old patches. Therefore, preliminary evidence already points out at the emerging role of low-tech community-based coral reef rehabilitation as a highly useful tool to restore and rebuild coral reef-based fisheries.

As mentioned above, parrotfishes Scaridae and acanthurids are among the most abundant fish taxa across reef rehabilitation sites, in comparison to areas with no coral out-planting. Further, Acropora cervicornis out-planting has resulted in increased abundances of the Long-spine urchin Diadema antillarum.

This has resulted in increased herbivory upon macroalgae and algal turf, and in increased percent cover of crustose coralline algae CCA. Sociological lessons learned 4. Building local support and stewardship of social-ecological systems Building local support and stewardship of social-ecological systems is a critical process for achieving success in any community-based marine protected area MPA participatory management or co-management effort. Community-based coral farming and reef rehabilitation also requires such support and stewardship.

Multiple environmental problems frequently raise concern on residents of coastal communities, and a few highly concerned people assume the community leader role hoping to find solutions. However, at least in Puerto Rico, most base-community members lack the technical and scientific resources to meet the minimum and urgent needs of their community.

Therefore, a basic step for successfully achieving solutions is to organize, establish a goal and delineate a functional plan to achieve objectives. But this may often require seeking technical and scientific support from the academia and NGOs. Integrating multiple stakeholders in coral farming and reef rehabilitation efforts is a key for overcoming such obstacles. Community-based leaders can often provide a fundamental historical background that can provide valuable information to understand and resolve problems.

Particularly, old fisher folks can provide very detailed information regarding the ecological history of local coral reefs that can help rebuild local environmental history and identify coral reef rehabilitation strategies. In addition, the interaction among base communities, NGOs, the academia, the private sector, and the government can allow and strengthen the development of trust. This is a critical element for achieving successful transparent collaboration in social-ecological systems.

Building up such local partnerships will foster building stronger functional networks, with the support and respect from agencies and private institutions. It can also strengthen outreach and educational efforts through a combination of hands-on training activities, workshops, and other methods to generate commitments among the stakeholders who traditionally adopt roles as volunteers as they feel confident and dominate different skills. Networking, among different sectors, can further allow strengthening communication and sharing of experiences.

Building a volunteer network Building up a strong and consistent volunteer network is another key to success. This can be achieved through proper organization, direction, well-established goals, and a functional, realistic work plan.

There is also a need to integrate educational and hands-on training to develop and strengthen theoretical and technical skills, build stewardship and compromise, assign roles and tasks, etc.

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Even the difference in personalities and needs can provide a wide range of opportunities for participation. Individuals have different needs, from basic nutrient supplementation, to self-realization. Different needs function as motivation in performing tasks beyond satisfying personal needs. The collective need of volunteers represents the necessity of their environments or communities.

A transparent dialog between volunteers and collaborators can help build up cooperative working links serving different needs for the same adversity.

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Further, building up large teams of volunteers can help to have always people available for labor-intensive field work, preventing burning out the same group of people. It is therefore important to know about your volunteers, their interests, needs, their chemistry as a group, their personalities, and their strengths and weaknesses. Team assemblage A fundamental step in achieving team success is the selection process of proper members of a coral farming or reef rehabilitation team.

Team technical leadership is important to provide direction during planning and field work. Personality issues, individual responses and performance to different specific tasks and roles, and differences in strength and weaknesses are also important elements to consider. Understanding the profile of volunteers, their needs, and the different characters and temperaments can allow making a good distribution of the workforce, avoid conflicts that impede the growth of the organization, as well as the fulfillment of goals and objectives.

How to overcome lack of funding? Lack of commitment by government agencies and funding institutions, indifference by private businesses and tourism industry, and the lack of a long-term vision of projects goals can lead to rapid failure. Therefore, the need to engage local community, build stewardship, volunteerism, integration of university students through research and first laboral experience programs, etc.

Nevertheless, in a time of significant socio-economic constraints, there is a need to explore alternative funding avenues from multiple auto-sustainable economic strategies.

These might include alternatives such as: Green taxes can be derived from multiple tourism-based activities such as airplane landing fees, cruiseship taxes, private yacht taxes, SCUBA diving and snorkeling charter boat operations, kayaking, vehicle rental, hotels, etc.

Under current local, regional, and global socio-economic decline, it is paramount to develop and implement creative strategies for seeking financial support. But to achieve this, strengthening local organizations, building up strong partnerships with different sectors, and fostering community-based participation are fundamental steps. How to overcome other roadblocks? Even successful community-based and academic projects can face multiple roadblocks in their day to day work.

Aspects such as permitting bureaucratic processes, access to restoration sites, beach access issues, privatization and roadblocks, conflicts with other uses e.

Also, it would be important to build up communication channels with private entities and show the benefits that successful coral farming and reef rehabilitation can bring to their businesses. Achieving such collaborative support would be important to strengthen economic support.

How to overcome uncertainties and change? Management of uncertainties and change under projected environmental and climate changes constitute a major challenge.

In situations where uncertainties and change are key features of the social-ecological landscape, critical factors for sustainability and rapid recovery are resilience, the capacity to cope with crisis and adapt, and the conservation of sources of innovation and renewal [ 50 ]. Such is the case of the impact of extreme weather events and ecological surprises impacting coral farming and reef rehabilitation.

However, interventions in social-ecological systems with the aim of altering resilience immediately confront issues of governance.

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Who decides what should be made resilient to what is a critical question for any reef rehabilitation program. For whom is resilience to be managed, and for what purpose are also two key elements that must be decided during the planning stages of any project, always bearing in mind the long-term goal of managing uncertainties and change. Socio-economic benefits of coral farming and reef rehabilitation can be offset by lack of governance A major lesson learned from the Culebra Island coral farming and reef rehabilitation experience has been that the rapid increase in socio-economic benefits from increased nature-based tourism does not always contribute to support social-ecological systems under a weak governance structure.

Increasing tourism and business opportunities e. This has resulted in increasing alternative job opportunities. But a weak governance structure still allows the leak of revenues from the local community, favoring external businesses, and the total lack of economic support of the local MPA, and local coral farming and reef rehabilitation efforts. Therefore, strengthening governance is a critical step to support the ecological and socio-economic recovery of social-ecological systems resilience, stability and persistence, and a mechanism to foster increased local participation and sharing of benefits.

Great Barrier Reef

A second important benefit in Culebra Island has been increasing fish densities on rehabilitated reefs, therefore contributing to enhance fishing on adjacent areas, through fish spillover effects. Also, reef rehabilitation has resulted in increased recovery of shoreline protection from wave action and erosion. Therefore, the combined benefits are multiple and, with proper planning, design, funding, governance, local support, and implementation, this can have long-lasting impacts in restoring coastal social-ecological resilience, and overall ecosystem services and productivity.

The challenge of engaging the youth: This has allowed approaching local kids with an understanding of their community relationship with the coastal resources e. Second, it is important to understand that planning is compromised for families living on financial brink and that time must be budgeted to compensate for disorganization, lack of preparation, competing programs, transport, last-minute emergencies, health, and poor-diet related illnesses.

Also, programs need to be no cost for economically compromised participants, however, engagement must require compensation for programs to be valued. Required community service is one option, but always rewarded and never treated as punishment.