In situ nurseries enhance coral transplant growth in sedimented waters

In situ nurseries have been a crucial part of coral reef restoration initiatives for the past two decades. However, the advantages over direct transplantation in sedimented waters has yet to be examined. In the present study, we showed that Pachyseris speciosa and Pocillopora damicornis fragments reared in in situ nurseries (NR) in Singapore’s sedimented waters grew significantly faster (by three to five times) than those which were directly transplanted (DT) onto the substrates. The increased growth rate during the nursery phase augmented the size of NR transplants, and had a flow-on effect on their performance during the post-transplantation phase. Overall, the maximum diameter of the NR transplants was 1.8–2.7 times larger than DT transplants after 11 months. The growth enhancement of the nursery-reared transplants improved the cost-effectiveness of our restoration effort: the estimated cost per centimetre growth of NR transplants was one-fifth of the DT corals despite the additional costs incurred to construct the nurseries. These results highlight that coral nurseries are beneficial to reef restoration in chronically sedimented waters.