As the Great Barrier Reef continues to suffer both global and acute health pressures, focus continues to increase on management interventions – should we, and if so how?

Common among interventions is the direct restoration of corals, but which of the many varying techniques for coral restoration will be most effective, and how can we devise and share knowledge of best practice in coral restoration?

The NESP Tropical Water Quality Hub ‘Project 4.3′ – Best practice coral restoration for the Great Barrier Reef’ aims to answer this pressing question.

Led by Dr Ian McLeod at James Cook University’s TROPWATER facility, the three-year project will examine the effectiveness of past and current coral restoration efforts, including an Australia-first ‘coral gardening’ project already underway at Fitzroy Island near Cairns.

A product of cooperation between TWQ Hub researchers, GBRMPA, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and NGOs Reef Ecologic and Reef Restoration Foundation, the project will trial the growing of cuttings of Acropora coral on metal frames in the water off Fitzroy Island, a popular tourism site.

It’s one of many restoration efforts under evaluation by Dr McLeod and the project team.

Dr McLeod said interventions in response to acute damage was more important now than ever.

“There’s definitely been a shift from protectionist to interventionist thinking when it comes to GBR management,” he said.

“What we’re doing is starting an initial scoping study to look at what you can do to accelerate recovery after an acute damage event, like a cyclone or a ship strike.”

“If you can accelerate that recovery after an acute event, even the simplest stuff, it’s got a lot of benefits – but we need to be looking at ‘what’s the best practice for doing this?’

“Up until now most of these projects have been focused on coral growth. what we’ll also be doing is looking into what the return on investment is, what kind of scale these techniques are applicable at – is it something that would be useful for example to the tourism industry because it can keep a dive site in good condition, or is it something that could be used on a wider scale?”

“Looking at a single site might seem a bit small compared to the entire Great Barrier Reef but if it’s a major tourist site, we’re talking about potentially billions of dollars to the tourism industry.

“Of course this all happens within the context of a changing global climate, which has big effects on the GBR – the global effort to mitigate climate change has to continue, that’s vitally important.”


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