The Great Barrier: The Road to Blue Restoration

By Oliver Topel, SRC intern

This blog post covers the scientific paper Blue Restoration–Building Confidence and Overcoming Barriers, written by Phoebe J. Stewart Sinclair et al. The main subject of this paper is a process called “Blue Restoration,” which is the interventions made for the rehabilitation of marine and coastal habitats. Some examples of these are salt marshes, coral reefs, and tidal flats. Until recent years, restoration efforts have been focused more on terrestrial areas, but this focus is slowly shifting to encompass marine areas. For blue restoration to be effective, however, practitioners must overcome five distinct barriers: environmental (land conversion, water quality, human-made issues), technical (site selection and potential capacity), social (public perception and community engagement), economic (financing and insurance), and political (government policies). 

Figure 1, image of the five classes of barriers (Source: Sinclair et al. 2020)

While these barriers are difficult to overcome, doing so could lead to exponential improvement in marine and coastal habitats. If blue restoration is successful, it would not only lead to great improvements to biodiversity, but could even mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

In order to expand upon these barriers, the research paper examines four restoration efforts, two of which taking place in Sulawesi, Indonesia, with the other two based in Chesapeake Bay, United States. The four restoration sites illustrate barriers, how to work around them, and how to solve issues. One of these was a coral reef in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Storms, coral mining, and other disturbances caused a coral rubble field, displaying a technical barrier (Williams et al., 2019). The project solved this by deploying structures known as ‘spiders’ (see picture below) to stabilize the rubble and support transplanted coral. After two years, live coral cover went from less than 10% to greater than 60%. 

Figure 2, image of ‘spider’ structures, Source: Frontiers in Marine Science

The second of these took place in a shellfish ecosystem in Chesapeake Bay, United States, where oyster restoration was at the center of this project. The eastern oyster (see image below) provides food, water filtration, and more to the local ecosystem and to fisheries. However, due to overfishing and disease, oyster populations have dropped to less than 10% of the average (Wilberg et al., 2011). This being a political barrier, increasing the eastern oyster’s numbers has been a collaboration across several jurisdictions. These efforts are believed to restore the populations of both finfish and shellfish by 2025 (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2019).

Figure 3, image of eastern oysters, Source: NOAA Fisheries

With these projects and many more throughout the world, conservationists and marine affairs workers are putting significant time and effort into the blue restoration. Understanding the five classes of barriers is essential in assuring success of the blue restoration, because even if one barrier is overcome, another can easily undo the headway made. Spreading the information about the successes of these projects is very important, allowing to inspire and educate people on the importance of the blue restoration and all the good it can do for the Earth.

Works cited

Stewart-Sinclair, P. J., Purandare, J., Bayraktarov, E., Waltham, N., Reeves, S., Statton, J., … & Lovelock, C. E. (2020). Blue Restoration–Building Confidence and Overcoming Barriers. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, 748.

Williams, S. L., Sur, C., Janetski, N., and Hollarsmith, J. (2019). Large-scale coral reef rehabilitation after blast fishing in indonesia: coral reef rehabilitation. Restor. Ecol. 27, 447–456. doi: 10.1111/rec.12866

Wilberg, M. J., Livings, M. E., Barkman, J. S., and Morris, B. T. (2011). Overfishing, disease, habitat loss, and potential extirpation of oysters in upper Chesapeake Bay. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 436, 131–144. doi: 10.3354/meps09161

Chesapeake Bay Program (2019). Chesapeake Progress. Available online at:

Improving Marine Reserves

By Mary Trainor,
Marine conservation student

It is a wonderful sign of the times that governments around the world are taking action to protect the ocean.  One popular marine management tool is the marine protected area (MPA), which aims to conserve marine life and habitats by restricting what people can do within designated MPA boundaries (National Ocean Service 2012b).  There have recently been advancements in both the placement and abundance of state government regulated MPAs in United States waters.  For instance, in June of 2012,  the California Fish and Game Commission approved plans to implement the final 19 MPAs needed to complete the open-coast section of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, boosting California’s total MPA count to 119 (California Dept. of Fish and Game 2012).  In addition, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council is currently re-evaluating the sanctuary’s boundaries and regulations in order to reflect changes in laws and scientific literature (National Ocean Service 2012a).

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Coral Reef Management in a Changing Climate

by Laurel Zaima, RJD Intern

Ecological disruptions have been occurring at an alarming rate and have been affecting many sensitive marine organisms. Fortunately, the coral reefs have been fairly resilient to the climate change; however, these disturbances have created a high demand for solutions to conserve the resilience of the coral reef. The scientists of the Prioritizing Key Resilience Indicators to Support Coral Reef Management in a Changing Climate conservation research paper conducted experiments in an Indonesian protected area to understand the coral reef’s level of resilience and the human power to help the coral’s resilience and recovery to the climate changes. The definition of resilience is “the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb recurrent disturbances or shocks and adapt to change while retaining essentially the same function and structure” (McClanahan et. al., 2). Resistance and recovery are the focus of the experiment because they are tangible aspects of resilience.

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Biscayne National Park’s Coral Nursery Club: working to protect Florida’s coral reefs

by Jonathan Dorsey, RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program intern

Coral transplanted into Biscayne National Park reefs

Biscayne National Park on the southeastern tip of Florida is 95% underwater. The bay consists of many types of coral species that may be in harm’s way. While these delicate reef structures struggle with warming waters, disease, and physical assaults from boaters, divers, and anglers, volunteers at the park are working to preserve them by designing coral nurseries.

The Coral Nursery Club was founded by the park rangers of Biscayne National Park in 1993. This is a non-profit organization that has three goals in mind: 1) To rescue coral fragments resulting from inadvertent vessel groundings in Park waters, 2) To develop and maintain a supply of natural coral colonies with a diversity that reflects natural conditions in the Park, and 3) To provide a platform for community volunteers to participate and learn the intricacies of coral reef management and restoration.

When the rangers hear of a boat grounding that took place in the bay, they take volunteers to go scavenge the reef for scraps for coral that were broken off or damaged. Using special adhesives, the rangers glue these coral fragments onto small spokes and further places into a long row underneath the dock at Adam’s Key. Then to monitor, the rangers take more volunteers out to photographing the collected samples, checking for growth and rejuvenation. By comparing these new pictures to the old ones, researchers are able to calculate the polyp growth rate and they take note of seasonal variances.

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