Adapting coral culture to climate change: the Mauritian experience
The reefs of Mauritius have been subjected to various impacts including climate-induced bleaching. Since coral bleaching has become a recurrent event, we have developed a pilot project to culture corals in a Land-Based Nursery (LBN) based on the hypothesis that corals would grow well ex situ and at the same time they will be protected from the deleterious impacts of warm water anomalies, cyclones and pollution. The LBN consisted of three culture tanks, supplied with seawater from the lagoon. An Ocean-Based Nursery (OBN) was set up to serve as control to the experiment. Various fast growing as well as bleaching resistant coral species were cultured. Most species grew well in the nurseries with some variations observed between treatments. For example, it was noted that although the growth of Acropora formosa was significantly faster at the OBN (p<0.05), yet it adapted well to the LBN. On the other hand, Acropora austera grew significantly faster at the LBN (p<0.05). Pocillopora damicornis and A. selago grew successfully at both the OBN and the LBN. Overall, the results from the pilot study indicated that ex situ coral culture was possible for various species and these could be used for conservation initiatives as well as for maintaining a sustainable marine aquarium trade.
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