A U.S. scientist and his team say they have developed a technique for reattaching large sponges that are dislodged from coral reefs.
Professor Joseph Pawlik of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, a co-author of the study, said the research findings could be generally applied to the restoration of other large sponge species that are removed by human activities or storms.
In the study 20 specimens of the Caribbean giant barrel sponge were removed and reattached to Conch Reef off Key Largo, Fla., during 2004 and 2005 at depths of about 49 feet and 98 feet.
The sponges were attached to the reef using sponge holders consisting of polyvinyl chloride piping, which was anchored in a concrete block set on a plastic mesh base.
The researchers said although the test area was struck by four hurricanes during the study period, 62.5 percent of sponges survived at least 2.3- to 3 years and 90 percent of the sponges attached in deep water locations survived.
The sponges, which Pawlik said can be more than hundreds or thousands of years old, reattached to the reef after being held stationary by sponge holders for as little as 6 months.
The study appears in the journal Restoration Ecology.