Reversing coral reef decline requires reducing environmental threats while actively restoring reef ecological structure and function. A promising restoration approach uses coral breeding to boost natural recruitment and repopulate reefs with genetically diverse coral communities. Recent advances in predicting spawning, capturing spawn, culturing larvae, and rearing settlers have enabled the successful propagation, settlement, and outplanting of coral offspring in all of the world's major reef regions. Nevertheless, breeding efforts frequently yield low survival, reflecting the type III survivorship curve of corals and poor condition of most reefs targeted for restoration. Furthermore, coral breeding programs are still limited in spatial scale and species diversity. Here, we highlight four priority areas for research and cooperative innovation to increase the effectiveness and scale of coral breeding in restoration: (1) expanding the number of restoration sites and species, (2) improving broodstock selection to maximize the genetic diversity and adaptive capacity of restored populations, (3) enhancing culture conditions to improve offspring health before and after outplanting, and (4) scaling up infrastructure and technologies for large‐scale coral breeding and restoration. Prioritizing efforts in these four areas will enable practitioners to address reef decline at relevant ecological scales, re‐establish self‐sustaining coral populations, and ensure the long‐term success of restoration interventions. Overall, we aim to guide the coral restoration community toward actions and opportunities that can yield rapid technical advances in larval rearing and coral breeding, foster interdisciplinary collaborations, and ultimately achieve the ecological restoration of coral reefs.
Understanding the diffusion of innovative ideas, behaviors, and technologies could reduce disconnects between conservation science and management, such as the science‐practice gap between biodiversity research and restoration practice. To assess knowledge uptake as an indicator of diffusion of innovation in restoration practice, we conducted an online survey of two organizations focused on coastal habitat restoration: Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) and International Coral Reef Society (ICRS). We evaluated experience restoring particular habitats, along with perceptions of the purpose of restoration, the metrics used to evaluate restoration success, and the challenges to successful restoration. We then examined the perceived importance of genetic diversity for restoration success as an indicator of knowledge‐practice transfer in conservation strategy. The practice of coastal habitat restoration diverged by organization and habitat: a higher percentage of CERF members had restored oysters, marshes, and seagrasses compared to ICRS, whereas the reverse was true for corals. Views of the purpose of restoration, the site selection process, and the challenges to successful restoration were similar. Despite similarities in perceptions of the restoration process, the two organizations had variable indications of knowledge‐practice transfer: ICRS respondents ranked the importance of genetic diversity as a restoration strategy higher than did CERF respondents. The perceived importance of genetic diversity also differed by habitat, with both CERF and ICRS respondents ranking diversity as more important for corals. The more successful transfer of knowledge to practice in the coral community indicates that the disconnect between genetic diversity research and restoration practice is surmountable. In addition, it serves as a potential strategy for promoting the spread of innovative restoration practices to achieve long‐term recovery of ecosystems.more » « less
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- Conservation Science and Practice
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- National Science Foundation
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