Antifouling Coatings Are Harmful For Preservation Of Coral Settlement

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In the early stages after larval settlement, coral spat can be rapidly overgrown and outcompeted by algae, reducing overall survival for coral reef replenishment and supply for restoration programs, says an article published in Nature.

AF coatings

Here we investigated three antifouling (AF) coatings for their ability to inhibit algal fouling on coral settlement plugs, a commonly-used restoration substrate. Plugs were either fully or partially coated with the AF coatings and incubated in mesocosm systems with partial recirculation for 37 days to track fouling succession. 

In addition, settlement of Acropora tenuis larvae was measured to determine whether AF coatings were a settlement deterrent. Uncoated control plugs became heavily fouled, yielding only 4–8% bare substrate on upper surfaces after 37 days. During this period, an encapsulated dichlorooctylisothiazolinone (DCOIT)-coating was most effective in reducing fouling, yielding 61–63% bare substrate. Antiadhesive and cerium dioxide (CeO2−x) nanoparticle (NP) coatings were less effective, yielding 11–17% and 2% bare substrate, respectively. 

Average settlement of A. tenuis larvae on the three types of AF-coated plugs did not statistically differ from settlement on uncoated controls. However, settlement on the NP-coating was generally the highest and was significantly higher than settlement found on the antiadhesive- and DCOIT-coating. Furthermore, on plugs only partially-covered with AF coatings, larval settlement on coated NP- areas was significantly higher than settlement on coated antiadhesive- and DCOIT-areas. These results demonstrate that AF coatings can reduce fouling intensity on biologically-relevant timescales while preserving robust levels of coral settlement. This represents an important step towards reducing fine-scale competition with benthic fouling organisms in coral breeding and propagation.

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Source: Nature 

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