The coupling of environmental and anthropogenic stressors has driven global coral reefs to rapid decline. Furthermore, changing human demographics and growing dependence on coastal resources provided by corals reefs have underlined the need for immediate measures to ensure sustainable use of this key marine ecosystem. While passive management measures have been useful in retarding this unprecedented loss of coral reefs, active restoration measures have been pivotal in facilitating the recovery of impacted reefs. However, the field of marine restoration ecology is still in its infancy and most of the practices developed for ecological restoration of coral reefs have been based on that formulated for terrestrial restoration. In this study, we aim to link key biological and ecological concepts underlying coral reef ecosystems to the practical application of ecological restoration. We first examined the key attributes of scleractinian coral biology including reproduction, larval dispersal, settlement and growth. This is followed by a discussion on ecological processes within the coral reef ecosystem that would affect the success of restoration efforts. Based on the review, a critical analysis of the potential challenges for reef restoration will be highlighted. Altogether, this study provides a comprehensive understanding of the ecological drivers that contribute to the success of reef restoration as a tool for sustainable coastal development and resource management.
Tai Chong Toh, National University of Singapore, Singapore
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