Outplanting Settlers

Staghorn Corals in Cane Bay, St. Croix. Photo © Kemit-Amon Lewis/TNC

The end goal for newly settled corals is for them to contribute to the reef ecosystem and promote coral population recovery. This involves outplanting (or transplanting) these new corals to a reef. If settled onto artificial substrates, outplanting is done after a short period of growth in a protected environment, such as a field-based or land-based nursery. Some time should be allotted for coral colony growth as larger colonies are suggested to have higher survivorship in natural reef environments than smaller colonies. ref


Checking seeding units with coral recruits that have been kept in an ocean-based nursery before outplanting. Photo © SECORE International/Reef Patrol

Selecting an outplanting site requires careful planning and consideration, and using a site selection guide may be helpful. Some factors to consider include matching the habitat requirements of the coral species being outplanted (such as wave energy or depth) and matching the site and anticipated means of attachment to the reef. Underwater epoxy is the most general means of attachment, but in moderately rugose habitats some substrates may be simply wedged into interstitial spaces in the reef. Once the site and attachment methods are chosen, attention should be paid to mapping or layout of the site (e.g., using belt transects or large plots), which will allow for more efficient monitoring. Tags can also be used to designate and track individual substrates for monitoring coral settlers.

General guidelines for outplanting can be found on the Coral Gardening Outplanting page.


  • Plan the reef site and layout of outplanted settlers so that they are easy to locate and monitor at a later time.



This content was developed with SECORE International. For more information, contact  opens in a new windowinfo@secore.org or visit their website at opens in a new windowsecore.org.

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