Coral reefs make up the most complex marine ecosystem on earth, essential to literally millions of plant and animal species. Over the past three decades, coral reefs in the western North Atlantic, including those in Virgin Islands National Park, have been damaged by diseases, storms, coral predators, high water temperatures, and a multitude of direct and indirect human activities. To date, there has been little to no recovery on damaged reefs. Diseases, storms and high seawater temperatures have played a major role. Degradation from human impacts continues to escalate simply because there are more and more people living near or dependent on the sea. A damaged coral reef cannot be restored to its original condition. True recovery of a reef could take decades to centuries, making damage prevention the priority management strategy. Nonetheless, with the increased incidence of damage and the continuing lack of recovery on Caribbean reefs, interest in rehabilitation and enhancement of reefs has heightened, specifically in transplantation of coral colonies to reefs of importance to local communities or in protected areas.

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