Research Projects 2018-2020

Growth optimization and survival of the bleaching-resistant coral genus Pavona for reef restoration in Hawaiʻi

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Peter Marko
Graduate Trainee: Claire Lewis

Claire Lewis poses by her research equipment for controlled coral growth experiments.

Healthy corals are crucial to coral reef ecosystems, a fundamental part of the Hawaiian economy.  Unfortunately, coral reefs are threatened worldwide by human activity and climate change.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hawaiʻi in the wake of back-to-back bleaching events in 2014 and 2015.  Although natural reproduction and recruitment will contribute to reef recovery, reef management in Hawaiʻi has recently turned to active restoration to accelerate this process.  This research project will contribute to that effort through experimental identification of optimal nursery growth conditions for stress-tolerant species of corals.  We will also assess the consequences of colony size and variation in colony morphology for and survival in the field when outplanted at coral reef restoration sites.  The species that we have chosen to develop cultivation techniques for are in the genus Pavona, a group of corals widely known to resist bleaching, and rapidly colonize bare substrate after bleaching events, coral mortality, and other disturbances to coral reef environments.  These ecological features make Pavona potentially important candidates for reef restoration as they are expected to become larger components of Hawaiian reefs.