Environmental restoration is a term that is commonly used after a severe environmental disaster, such as a chemical leakage or oil spill. As destruction of the natural environment is an ongoing process, the need to restore natural habitats like forests, coastal regions, coral reefs, etc. becomes increasingly apparent. As early as 1987, John J. Burger defined this practice as: “A process in which a damaged resource is renewed. Biologically. Structurally. Functionally”.
Applying these methods to the restoration efforts for coral reefs presents a new level of challenges and demands new ideas, as coral reefs are not located in the human natural habitat. Different scenarios of destruction and degradation call for different actions to restore and rehabilitate coral reefs. The term coral reef restoration is not yet widely used, although it has been practiced for decades. The general public is generally unaware of what an active approach to giving life back to shorelines and their inhabitants looks like. Using an analogy, often it is explained as reef-silviculture (Rinkevich, B. 2008), which is basically the same as terrestrial forestation. In a controlled environment, a diverse selection of local “reef seedlings” is collected (which are naturally broken off or actively taken small pieces of coral), grown under optimal conditions (current, pH-level, salinity, enough light, no pollution, etc.), and located in a relatively easy to reach area, preferably close to the restoration site. This accumulation of seedlings together makes up the term “coral garden” or “coral nursery”, and they come in different forms and shapes, depending on local conditions, materials, funding, seedling types and size of the project.
The next step is placing the harvested coral pieces onto a 3-D structure. Although these structures can be anything imaginable, some are more effective in terms of optimizing and facilitating growth since the success of (re)populating on a flat area is less than an elevated construction (Fox, H.E., 2000). There are different approaches with various outcomes and levels of satisfaction regarding aesthetics as well as functionality.