The Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman’s intensified coral restoration research is aimed at helping regenerate the world’s coral reefs. CCMI’s scientists are working on new techniques to maximise coral growth in a nursery setting.
“Where do we put these nurseries, how deep can we put them, and how we can really optimise productivity so that we get the most growth for the least amount of effort,” said CCMI Project Manager Paul Maneval.
He told Cayman 27 his research into growth rates of staghorn corals have already netted significant gains. The natural growth rat, he said, is around 10-15 centimeters per year.
“Our shallow nurseries are growing at a rate of about 50 cm per year, about five times what they do naturally, and at the deep sites we are actually getting a 50 percent increase over our shallower nursery growth rate, so we are looking at about 75 centimeters per year which is huge,” he said.
He told Cayman 27 CCMI’s coral nursery notched a major accomplishment for the first time last year.
“We actually observed our first spawning event here on Little Cayman,” said Mr. Maneval. “Our nursery is actually reproductively viable, we witnessed for the first time ever, spotting of acripora cervicornis, out on the reef environment, and that happened also in our nursery which is a really promising step.”
He said one challenge still to overcome is improving success rates of out-planted corals on recipient reefs.
“We have to understand where to put them, how close together to put them, what size we out-plant them, so our future research is going to look at some of these questions, these basic fundamental questions,” he said.
The end goal is simple.
“I think we have a chance to regenerate the reef, and bring it back to what it used to be,” he said.
Mr. Maneval told Cayman 27 CCMI’s findings will be used to inform future coral restoration and nursery efforts.
There are six permitted coral nurseries across our three islands.