Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological and Environmental Sciences (MSBES)

Specialization

Ecology and Ecosystem Sciences (EES)

Department

Natural Resources Science

First Advisor

Graham Forrester

Abstract

Coral reef ecosystems are biologically diverse and ecologically important communities that provide valuable ecosystem services to coastal communities, such as coastal protection, food, and tourism. In response to the progressive worldwide decline in coral cover, the active rehabilitation of coral populations by outplanting has become an increasingly common conservation strategy. In the Caribbean, however, assessments of restoration projects have been limited to the outplanted species (mostly Acropora spp). We, therefore, evaluated changes in non-restored species and ecosystem functions post-restoration. We compared six locations across the Caribbean that had been outplanted with Acropora spp. to nearby unrestored controls. Acropora densities were higher at restored locations than controls, indicating successful restoration of the focal species. Overall, there were few significant responses in species composition, species richness or functional diversity across treatments. Nonetheless, Acropora restoration triggered recovery of some herbivores (macroalgal browsers and excavators) and fish species known to use Acropora for shelter, while appearing to reduce recruitment of most other coral species and the percent cover of a few benthic taxa (Millepora spp. and Porites spp.). Ecosystem recovery may thus take longer than a decade (plots were 1-11 years post-restoration), require greater restoration effort, or new restoration approaches.

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