Did you know that Guam has lost 80% of the coral on its seaward slopes since 1960? Due to climate change and local stressors such as pollution, our coral reefs continue to decline. Between 2013-2015, Guam lost half of its branching staghorn corals. Guam’s natural resource managers and local researchers are now investigating innovative ways to actively restore our island’s coral reef habitats. Guam’s ocean- based coral nursery, located within the Piti Bomb Holes Marine Preserve, has hosted over 1,000 fragments of five species of branching staghorn corals. The fragments are transplanted to the nursery, where they are able to grow larger in favorable conditions before being outplanted to reefs. The nursery also contains juvenile corals that were bred in the University of Guam Marine Lab using coral spawn from Guam’s reefs. In 2015, after a mass spawning, more than 1,000 coral larvae were settled onto tiles and moved to the nursery, where they have a safe environment to grow before being transplanted.
In addition to coral restoration, Guam’s natural resource managers are also actively restoring watersheds. Pollution, storm water, and sediments run-off the land and onto adjacent coral reefs. These inputs can smother corals, cause harmful algal blooms, and result in coral disease outbreaks. One approach to decreasing the amount of pollution and sediments that reach the sea is through watershed restoration. This includes increasing the amount of vegetation on Guam’s land by replanting slopes and reducing impacts of wildland fires and offroading. By planting trees and other native plants, we can prevent erosion; the roots of plants will hold the soil in place and prevent runoff of sediments onto the reefs when it rains.