Bonaire is more than just a pretty place to visit. This island country is at the forefront of coral reef restoration. Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire (RRFB) is leading the effort to protect and restore Bonaire’s diverse coral reefs. This is the first time coral colonies have been reared and fragmented in a nursery setting before being “outplanted” on a reef.
Per Francesca Virdis, Chief Operating Officer of RRFB, explains, “Outplanting these boulder coral fragments for the first time was a critical step for us, one that was necessary to fine-tune our restoration techniques and establish proper operating protocols. From now on, our focus is scaling up their production to make sure that, with the help of our incredible community of dedicated volunteers, thousands of corals will be outplanted back to our reefs every year.”
How It Started
RRFB obtained its first permit to collect endangered corals in 2012. They collected fragments of the endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals and used them to grow the first 20 nursery trees at Buddy’s Reef and Klein Bonaire.
From Nursery To Reef
In 2019, RRFB obtained a few boulder coral fragments from four wild colonies around the island. They attached these fragments to specially designed nursery trees and closely monitored the trees for 2 years.
In December 2022, the first boulder corals were “reef-ready.” RRFB took them to restoration sites on Bonaire and outplanted them using a new technique: fragments were pressed into small domes of fresh cement, and the domes were secured to sand or rock. Once they hardened, these domes became part of the reef, monitored closely by the Reef Renewal Team.
Since 2013, more than 41,000 corals have been outplanted back to almost 9,000 square meters (96,875 square feet) of coral reef. Today Bonaire has 11 coral nurseries hosting over 15,000 corals (75 coral strains).
Diversity Is The Key
RRFB’s outplanting program guarantees that Bonaire’s coral species, staples of the marine ecosystem, will thrive despite tremendous pressure from local and global threats.
Diversity is critical to the program. By outplanting diverse species of coral to degraded reefs, RRFB ensures that the corals can adjust to changing environments.
Want to learn more about the Caribbean? See these TravelAwaits articles: