Feasibility coral restoration

Started on February 10, 2017

Category: Uncategorized

Feasibility of coral restoration in Kenya (MSc internship)


Start: August, 2015

REEFolution started its first fieldwork by performing a pilot study in Kenya. This study aimed to determine the feasibility of coral restoration in the Shimoni area, South of Kenya. In August 2015,  two master students from Wageningen University (Michelle Marijt & Ewout Knoester) traveled to Kenya to perform the research in collaboration with local dive tour operator Pilli Pipa. Pilli Pipa showed them degraded coral patches and helped in the coral restoration activities.

Corals in Kenya have been destroyed by storms and human activities. One of the most detrimental factors was dynamite fishing, creating large fields of coral rubble (dead coral branches). Nowadays, there is a ban on dynamite fishing in Kenya and coral fields can slowly recover. Speeding up this recovery process can help local people as they are dependent on the ecosystem services of the coral reef. Coral restoration is therefore interesting in this area.

To increase the recovery of corals in the area, pieces of coral can be placed into structures that creates the optimal environment to reach maximum coral growth rates. These structures, also called nurseries, can be filled with broken corals that are still alive but would die if they get covered by sand. In the nurseries, these corals get a second chance to grow into a big healthy colony. When the corals are big enough they can be used to create a new healthy reef.

This study aimed to create the perfect nursery and research its feasibility. Therefor three nursery locations, three nursery designs and four coral species were researched. Before this could be done, connections with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Fisheries Department and the local Beach Management Units were established to realize the placement of these nurseries and to emphasize the need for coral protection. With their consent, the potential nursery locations were chosen. Two nurseries were placed in the Wasini Channel and a third nursery was placed in the Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park with the aid of KWS rangers. Per nursery, three nursery designs were placed;

  • The table: a seafloor-based nursery made of rebar
  • The Floater: a mid-water nursery suspended from surface buoys
  • The Tree: a PVC construction resembling a tree

And per design, four different corals (or actually, three hard corals and a hydrozoan) were placed. The students maintained the nurseries and monitored the corals in the nurseries.

December 2015, the students finished their research and found that all corals (Porites cylindricaAcropora aff. formosaPocillopora aff. verrucosa and hydrozoan Millepora aff. tenera) were growing well, although Porites had some difficulties in the nurseries. There was no difference in growth in the different nursery designs and only small differences in nursery locations were found. It was found that feasible coral restoration can be done in the Shimoni area. The best nursery design for future coral restoration activities is the Tree design because of its cheap construction.

At this moment the research is continued by other students. They will continue monitoring coral growth in the nurseries and will research the next step of coral restoration in Kenya.


Michelle Marijt:

‘Every single dive in Kenya reveals something beautiful and emphasizes that we should protect this mysterious world’


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People for coral, coral for people