The purpose of The Global Coral Repository is to restore coral reefs. Though declines are local or regional, restoration is always local. Once issues of water quality and other detrimental factors have been addressed and rectified, the undertaking of restoring coral reefs can be considered. It will be the regional repository’s responsibility to act not only as a source for coral material for restoration, but also the propagation of corals so that reefs can be restored.
In most ecosystems, there is a successional order that occurs from the time of perturbation to the establishment of a climax community of a mature system. Coral reefs are no different. Populating reef-habitat formations with a single coral species is analogous to replanting rainforest with a single species of pine tree. Sure, you can get corals to grow there, but it’s not a sustainable community, or it may not be the best community for that type of habitat. The Global Coral Repository will work with local and world professionals who have expertise on the local reef to be restored. What was the dominant composition of the coral community before declines were noted? What species are best suited for the type of habitat that is intended to be restored? Where are the closest existing coral reefs to the proposed restored area, and can corals from that area be recruited naturally to the proposed restoration area? These questions need to be answered before any restoration activity is initiated.
We want to stress that ONLY corals from the inventory of the regional repository will be used to restore reefs in a proximate locality. Corals from the Red Sea will not be used to repopulate reef areas in the Caribbean, or in Indonesia or the Philippines. This is why it is so important for creating an extensive network of regional repositories – repositories whose collections reflect the community and genetic diversity that is found in that specific region.
Restoration is not a single event, but a sustained effort of cultivation. The Global Coral Repository will work with local interests to monitor the progress of coral recovery, and to ensure that the factors that caused the reef decline in the first place do not return. The only way to do that is to ensure the reef and its restoration effort are valued by the local community; and that the local community is responsible for its continued success.