This is the third coral spawning field workshop as part of our 5-year Acropora restoration project in Curacao.
This project aims to better understand sexual reproduction of corals and develop new restoration strategies to help save endangered corals, such as the Elkhorn coral.
A coral culture system has been built at the Curacao Sea Aquarium that harbors coral larvae and juvenile colonies. The cultured corals are transplanted to the reef to study survival and growth in order to better understand the restoration process.
Elkhorn & Staghorn Coral
Curacao harbors some of the last remaining Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) populations that are still joining the mass coral spawning event in August every year. Both species have been dramatically declined in the last decades throughout the range and have been listed recently as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Helping corals to reproduce
When corals reproduce, they release their eggs and sperm into the water, usually during mass spawning events. The gametes drift to the water surface where fertilization occurs. Within a few days in the water column the embryos develop to larvae which may settle on the reef where they metamorphize into a primary polyp, the beginning of new coral life.
During mass spawning nights billions of gametes are released synchronously. This has been ensured the survival of the species for millions of years. However, because of all men induces stress factors that negatively effect coral reef, corals such as the Elkhorn coral and Staghorn coral have trouble to reproduce successfully.
This is where our restoration initiative in Curacao comes in. We want to help these endangered corals to overcome this bottleneck and help them reproduce again.
This annual mass spawning event will take place during the upcoming workshop. The workshop participants will witness this impressive natural phenomenon. We will collect eggs and sperm from this corals released on Curacao and use them for restoration research.
Goals of the workshop
Besides witnessing coral spawning and collecting gametes we have several goals:
- training in breeding techniques for sustainability in public aquaria
- stimulate coral conservation research involving local stakeholders
- stimulate networking between public aquaria and research institutes
- develop innovative restoration tools for the conservation of endangered corals
- inform the local community about the situation of today’s coral reefs, and what can be done to conserve them.
The SECORE workshop offers researchers the infrastructure, and the tools to perform excellent science in coral reproduction and coral restoration.
During the workshop there will be a public evening at the Curacao Sea Aquarium.
Lectures to inform the local public about the project and nature conservation in the Caribbean will be given.