Original Minimum Requirements - See Revised Prize Overview

At a minimum, we want to require teams to demonstrate their ability to:

    Restore at least one hectare (ha) of reef in one week; Deploy a minimum of three coral species; and
  • Achieve at least 50 percent live coral cover surviving after two years.

Do you think these requirements are fair? Too strict? Or not strict enough? Are there other requirements we should consider adding?

A certain percent survival will favor places with stable conditions and may dissuade participation from environments which need restoration most. Perhaps ratio of initial to endpoint coral cover might work better? We can transplant all day in an area that has been over collected or dynamited and expect high survival whereas bleaching and disease prone locales, where coral will not recruit back to without help, will be a lot more work but may be in more in need of restoration

We received similar feedback on this survival metric at a prize workshop at the Reef Futures conference in Florida last week. The general consensus was not to bother measuring coral survival at all. Survival and other metrics (coral equivalent, etc) focus too much on units when the ultimate goal should be a functioning ecosystem. Instead we should look at structural complexity, coral and fish diversity, what functional groups are present on the reef, and the future viability of the ecosystem. Several others suggested, as Charles did above, measuring the change between initial to endpoint coral cover, and also using some sort of index to measure ecological function/potential.

To that end, it was recommended that diversity should be a greater focus while ensuring some sort of equivalency between regions (considering the number of species present in the Indo-Pacific vs. Caribbean). Any thoughts on a suggested requirement of planting/seeding 50 percent of the number of coral species native to the region?

I think that for both the minimal requirements and the scoring system there should be a criterion addressing the production of enough corals to sustainably restore a hectare of reef per unit time. In other words, the restoration of one hectare in one week should not be a one-time accomplishment, but something that can be repeated again and again. The limiting factor is likely to be the rate at which corals can be farmed for outplanting. Whether the necessary throughput is achieved from sexual or asexual reproduction techniques, or a mix of both, is finally irrelevant. The minimal requirement could be that enough corals to cover a hectare of reef are to be produced every month. Higher scores would be awarded to teams that achieve a higher output.

It is very difficult to arrive at a common set of requirements that will provide an even playing field for asexual/fragment-based and sexual/larval based approaches. The former has the advantage of larger size and, hence, measurable % cover over the course of a few year project, but provides zero new genetic individuals to a population. The latter has the advantage of providing vast numbers of new genetic individuals to a population (and the opportunity for in situ selection to identify the best performing ones), but it is unlikely for this approach to yield measurable % cover in 2-3 years. So for this reason, any % cover criterion will vastly discourage larval approaches. Some sort of colony density criterion would come closer to providing the potential for even playing field for propagules that initiate the project at sizes that are ~ 2 orders of magnitude different (i.e. 10 cm fragments vs. 200 micron larvae). But it should also be carefully considered if a minimum number of genetic individuals (or genotypic diversity) should be required. Is one ha of 50% coral cover of a single genetic individual (or 2 or 5) acceptable?
There is also the question of what does ‘restore in a week’ mean . . . it seems that this sort of criterion is only addressing innovation in the deployment/outplanting step. How long and what are the costs of producing the coral material you would be restoring with? Presumably it should be cultured or produced de novo (not directly moved or transplanted from a nearby healthy coral population). So additional specifications/requirements are needed to delineate (and probably to challenge) the provenance of the restoration materials (i.e. coral). For asexual propagation approach, there is a fragmenting and grow-out period. For the sexual/larval approach there are seasonal constraints on when larvae are available (spawning seasons) and these can vary geographically. Theoretically, one could produce the restoration material de novo via larval propatation in 2-3 weeks (if it is the right 2-3 weeks), but I think it would take substantially longer than that for asexual propagation de novo (unless you are going to just move the material from one reef to another). So the provenance of the restoration material needs to be addressed in the prize requirements.
There is another dichotomy that is challenging in defining and pursuing this prize – that between the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific basins, In fact there are VERY FEW reefs in the Caribbean region which retain as much as 50% coral cover (e.g., Literally less than 10 sites out of >700 surveyed by the AGGRA program up to 2018; GRRA. 2018. Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA): An online database of AGRRA coral reef survey data. Available: http://agrra.org. (Accessed: Date [e.g., Dec 20, 2018]). There are many fewer coral species (and hence morphological forms) to work with in the Caribbean and other ecological differences that would seem to put Caribbean reefs at a disadvantage (see Roff, G., & Mumby, P. J. (2012). Global disparity in the resilience of coral reefs. Trends in ecology & evolution, 27(7), 404-413.). So potentially different criteria should be considered for Caribbean implementation (or some sort of handicap/bonus).
Do the three species need to be equally represented (perhaps unrealistic given differential growth rate)? But also want more than token representation. Consider 60% representation by one species, and 20% by each of the other two.

SUGGESTED MINIMUM REQUIREMENT (numbers can be tweaked):
Live colony density of 4 per m2 (i.e. 4 million coral colonies) surviving > 1 yr in situ
Initial deployment < 1 week
Production period (i.e. development of coral material) <2 mos
At least 3 coral species of at least two morphs (e.g. branching and mounding) with proportional representation at least 20 % for the rarer two
Bonus or Handicap provided for: 1) Implementation in Caribbean region, 2) substantive representation by > 3 spp, and 3) genetic enrichment (e.g., incorporating > 500 novel genotypes).

@margaretmiller thanks so much for the incredible, detailed thoughts about minimum requirements! You’ve given the the team and I here at XPRIZE a lot to think about.

@“Victor Jongeneel” thanks for your comment! Just to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that, for asexual restoration specifically, the challenge of growing enough corals to do the restoration work will be more challenging than the actual outplanting of the corals once they’re grown?

At XPRIZE we try to set audacious but achievable goals. Is a five-hectare minimum for reef restoration over two years the right threshold for this prize? Does that fit the goal of being audacious enough to lead to exponential breakthroughs in coral restoration, but still achievable enough that people will feel incentivized to compete and win?

Hi All. I’ll throw in my two cents. First and most importantly, I strongly suggest X prize consider a longer period of time upon which to judge the prize. Considering the slow growth of corals and reefs and the need to develop solutions that benefit reefs in the long-term, I recommend a minimum of 5 yrs, preferably 10y with the first phase lasting no shorter than 3y. Ultimately solutions that work over 5-10 years will have a higher likelihood of “saving the reefs” than solutions which get lots of coral material onto a reef within a 2y time frame.

As for the metrics from comparison, I recommend using pre-existing conditions as a basis - measuring changes in coral diversity, cover, and density before and after restoration, while considering a basin-specific minimum absolute threshold (of each of the three metrics) and a minimum percent increase to reach the next level.

Thanks for your comment @TaliV! I understand the relevance and potential of extending the prize to the 5-10 year range, but from a logistical standpoint, we’re hoping a two-year competition helps strike a better balance between the realities of coral biology and the operational side of running the competition… with that in mind and noting the two track framework we’re looking at now (a winner for each-- asexual techniques and larval propagation), do you have further thoughts on what those metrics/thresholds might be if we take into account regional differences in species abundance?

hi @XPRIZE! I not sure if these requirements are strict or fair. But I would error on the side of give the teams the most freedom they can have. I would even say that if they can successfully grow only 1 species of coral in a week it would allow science to have more insight in the possibilities of coral restoration moving forward. But if three species is realistic goal for the team then I do think thats a good goal. WE GOT THIS ??