Document Type


Date of Original Version



Natural Resources Science


Restoration of plants, corals, and other sessile species often involves transplanting individuals to sites chosen for rehabilitation. Transplanted individuals are sometimes harvested directly from wild populations (direct transplanting), and sometimes propagated or cultured in a “nursery” before being transplanted (nursery outplanting). The ecological effectiveness and cost-efficiency of these methods have rarely been compared, so we performed an experiment to address this. Coral fragments, Acropora cervicornis (n = 780), were collected and assigned to one of three treatments: 1) directly transplanted to a restoration site and placed loose on the reef; 2) directly transplanted and manually attached to the reef; 3) moved to a nursery site near the restoration site for three months before being transplanted and manually attached to the reef. Treatment 1 was inefficient simply because these corals survived poorly. After 15 months, the survival and growth of corals assigned to treatments 2 and 3 was similar. The nursery method (3) was more expensive and time-consuming than direct transplanting (2), so treatment 2 yielded twice as many surviving corals per hour of work invested and three times as many survivors per dollar of set-up costs as treatment 3. The net production of live coral tissue per hour or per dollar invested was also greatest for direct-attached transplants. Cost- and time-efficiency are important considerations for practitioners seeking to maximize the area of reef rehabilitated and, in this case study, were maximized by bypassing a nursery stage.