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Coral Micro-Fragmentation

The new hope for restoring coral reefs

Coral Reef Reproduction

Coral scientists are working hard to restore corals as fast as possible. Through an accidental experiment by Dr. David A. Vaughan, scientists have managed to develop a micro-fragmentation and fusion method to speed the growth of brain-, boulder- and star-corals which are important reef-building species, known for their slow growth in the wild. They focus on optimizing growth in the warmer more acidic conditions our oceans hold in the future. Mālama Nā `Apapa has been has trained with these methods firsthand from Dr. Vaughan and his team of coral scientists at Plant A Million Corals. We are currently working with the community and government on implementing these coral reef reproduction efforts on Kaua`i. The following breaks down the process of coral micro-fragmentation:

Step 1: Selective breeding of Resilient Corals

Selective breeding is the intentional breeding of organisms with a desirable trait to produce offspring with improved traits. During severe bleaching events some reefs lose 50% to 95% of their coral. For selective breeding, the resilient corals that survive are identified and breed. Selective breeding resilient corals with other resilient corals of the same species increases the gene pool of corals that can withstand stressors caused by climate change and ocean acidification.   “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Step 2: Growing new coral recruits in land based or in situ nursery

Growing coral larvae is a slow process. It takes approximately 3 1/2 years to grow a massive coral species from a larvae to the size of a quarter.

Step 3:  Microfragmenting & Regrowth

Micro-fragmentation technology accelerates the growth rate of coral so that it is now possible to grow a coral the size of a quarter in 2 to 3 months, instead of 3 ½ years.

Coral Reproduction Timeline

The micro-fragmentation coral regrowth method is 10 to 20 times more productive than old coral fragmenting methods, due to smaller fragments and accelerated coral growth. The following is a timeline of coral growth via micro-fragmentation:

frag array in water

Freshly Micro-Fragmented Coral

Freshly cut 1cm micro-fragments of resilient coral.
frag substrates in tank

Growing Micro-Fragmented Coral

4-Week old micro-fragmented coral.
Single frag substrate in a hand, out of water

Micro-Fragmented Coral Fusion

11 Week old fusion of four 1cm micro-fragmented coral. This size coral normally takes 3-5 years.

Micro-Fragmented Coral Fusion

Coral fusing back together.

Micro-Fragmented Coral Fusion

2-3 Year old fusion of micro-fragmented coral. This size coral normally takes 25-75 years.
Substrates covering structure

Coral Fusion in Outplanting

250 Fragments of coral outplanted to the skeleton of a 250 year old coral. The fragments will fuse together creating a 250 year living coral in 2-3 years.